Failure to tackle real challenges threatens industry, finds CV Forum16 November 2012

The transport industry needs to stand up for itself and make the Coalition and society understand its importance – and the implications of failure for the whole country.

So said Rob Flello (MP for Stoke on Trent South), chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Freight Transport, at the CV Forum 2012, at the IMechE in London, yesterday (15 November 23012).

Debating sustainability, safety and efficiency in transport, speakers included: Des Evans, CEO of MAN; Dave Rowlands, technical services director of Wincanton; Ray Ashworth, CEO of DAF, Andy Boyle, managing director of ABE (Ledbury); Robert Gifford, director of PACTS (Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety); and Iain Speak, CEO of Bibby Distribution.

Flello urged everyone present to get involved and make his all-party group aware of key issues facing the industry.

He wasn't to be disappointed. Professor David Cebon (pictured), director of the Cambridge Vehicle Dynamics Consortium (CVDC), raised three.

Pointing out that stop-start traffic on motorways, due to congestion, causes trucks to double their fuel consumption and emissions, he wondered why night-time curfews persist, forcing HGVs onto the network at peak times – so increasing congestion, while delaying critical freight movements.

Cebon also pointed to logistics companies feeling forced to move loads from artics to rigids for urban distribution, because of manoeuvrability issues – again pushing fuel usage and emissions up on average 40%.

And he asserted that the UK's refusal to countenance much longer vehicles (beyond the current artic trials up to 18.55m) effectively prevents another 20% saving.

A change in policy would, he said, not only cut costs and emissions, but also massively reduce congestion, while improving safety – mostly because fewer, more technically advanced and highly regulated large vehicles would be on the road.

But he and others also worried about the ongoing issue of empty return legs. Cebon claimed that failure to deal with this issue means that large vehicle movements are costing operators an additional 70% in terms of wasted fuel.

"That's really, really bad," he said. "There are many technical solutions, but operators also need to partner with other companies to make a real change. Compare the potential saving to the 5% or so we achieve by implementing aerodynamics."

And ramming the congestion point home, he added: "If your 44-tonne aerodynamic artic has to stop just once, because of traffic, it takes 50km to regain its fuel advantage."

Cebon's was not alone voice though. Des Evans and others worried about high costs and low margins suffered by the industry.

Evans' key solutions: driver training, telematics, irtec technician licensing, the IRTE's new Workshop Accreditation scheme, and redrafting trading rules as key to sustainability.

He also suggested that the Chancellor release £100 million per year to fund a new truck scrappage scheme paid for from the £7 billion takings from fuel duty.

As for safety, Ray Ashworth spoke for all truck manufacturers when he said that the industry has been working very hard on this issue.

Making the point that vehicles and operators are already highly regulated, he pointed to the array of transport legislation, and the powers of VOSA and the traffic commissioners through O licensing.

And he added: "Trucks are the only machines on the planet that have to be inspected every six weeks."

Stressing the importance of avoiding complacency, PACTS' Gifford confirmed that the statistics are relatively good for HGVs. "In 2011, there were 1,901 deaths on the road, of which 28 involved HGV drivers – although HGVs were implicated in 158 deaths, so there remains a greater risk to others."

The other big recurring theme: driver training, upcoming Driver CPC and its limitations, and the industry's ageing driver population.

For Boyle, it's about "paying people properly", training them well beyond Driver CPC and changing attitudes in society of the value of, and prospects for, drivers – and, for that matter, technicians.

In agreeing, Bibby's Speak put it thus: "Training is key. We encourage our people to take pride in their vehicles... We also help drivers and others to understand the importance of the 'shadow' they cast."

The Commercial Vehicle Forum 2012 is supported by AA Drivetech, Bridgestone UK, Brigade Electronics, Greenchem Solutions, Isuzu Truck (UK) and Squarell Technology.

Brian Tinham

Related Companies
Bibby Distribution Ltd
Cambridge Vehicle Dynamics Consortium
DAF Trucks Ltd
Department for Transport
Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)
MAN Truck & Bus UK Ltd
Pullman Fleet Services
Wincanton plc

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