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Lorry operators targeting fuel savings for climate change

Almost nine out of ten lorry operators are taking action to reduce their carbon footprint. The major areas of activity have been in the ongoing monitoring of fuel efficiency and in regular reviews designed to reduce empty running.

The latest issue of the Freight Transport Association's Quarterly Transport Activity Survey asked FTA members about their response to climate change in the way that they move freight and operate their vehicles. Eighty-seven per cent of respondents said that they had taken some action to reduce their carbon footprint. In addition to measures relating to fuel use and empty running, three-quarters of operators repeated reviews of vehicle specifications to ensure optimum vehicle fill and fuel efficiency, 60 per cent had implemented fuel efficiency training for drivers, and one in five regularly reviewed the viability of alternative transport modes, notably rail. A quarter of operators were using biodiesel and almost one-third of those surveyed report their operation's environmental performance at board level so carbon footprint is clearly a significant, and growing, area of concern for many lorry operators.

FTA Economics Analyst Elizabeth Leroy said, 'Clearly taking actions which reduce fuel use, and thus reduce carbon output, have other advantages – helping to contain increases in fuel prices, enabling more efficient and reliable deliveries and an overall reduction in costs. But all of this has led to real benefits for both the economy and the environment. During the ten years to 2005 there was a reduction of 6.8 per cent in empty running and a cut in fuel use of ten per cent.

'These improvements would have been even more dramatic had it not been for the problems of roads congestion. Almost half the lorry operators surveyed were making more use of night-time deliveries in order to avoid congested roads. Thirty seven per cent of operators believe that government could do more to improve road infrastructure and planning processes to facilitate more use of night deliveries, where it is appropriate to do so. There is no doubt that a reduction in road congestion will cut emissions of carbon dioxide from all road transport; government could generate very real improvements in economic and reliable transport performance and cuts in carbon outputs if it provided an adequate roads infrastructure fit for the needs of our 21st century economy and environment. Providing more roads capacity, as well as using the existing network as effectively as possible, is undoubtedly environmentally friendly action.'

The FTA survey found that road freight activity had been strong throughout the first quarter of 2007 and operators anticipated a further growth during Q2. Demand for road freight activity has now shown five consecutive quarters of growth. The strongest performing sectors (in terms of freight demand) in the first half of 2007 have been construction, manufacturing and retail.

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