Going Green

The commercial vehicles on our roads aren’t actually killing our planet. However, it’s good to see that the industry is still adopting a proactive stance in this regard – especially on an international front.

When fingers are pointed at commercial vehicles and stupid people claim that they are single-handedly destroying the ozone layer, I get grumpy. That’s complete nonsense.

Of course commercial vehicles do have a role to play – but my beloved vans, trucks, buses and coaches aren’t the planet’s killjoy. This point has been reinforced yet again by DigiCore, which points out that power stations, oil refineries and heavy industry remain the primary culprits in releasing CO2 into the earth’s atmosphere. According to the company (see page six of this issue of FOCUS), global road transport contributes an estimated 14.6% of total greenhouse gas emissions by way of vehicle exhaust fumes. This is an oft-debated figure; some authorities say it’s even lower.

Despite this reality, the industry is still playing its part in reducing emissions, with the freight industry in the United Kingdom doing an especially good job. In fact, a brand new voluntary scheme led by the Freight Transport Association (FTA) will go so far as to benchmark the logistics sector’s carbon footprint.

The Logistics Carbon Reduction Scheme (LCRS) aims to record, report and reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the freight transport sector.  It has been backed by some of the FTA’s leading members, which represent over 23 000 commercial vehicles.

Stewart Oades, FTA president, says climate change is just too important to ignore. “In the absence of international agreement on how to tackle it, the logistics sector has grasped the nettle.  We take our environmental responsibility very seriously and the FTA has positioned itself at the vanguard of carbon reporting and, subsequently, reducing its footprint,” he notes.

Under the scheme, LCRS members will be committed to submitting their fuel data to the FTA for analysis to provide an accurate picture of the logistics sector’s carbon footprint.  This will allow Government to base its carbon reduction policy on hard evidence. The Association believes that commercial vehicle operators are quite possibly being unfairly vilified; a belief that appears borne out by cold hard facts.

There is, after all, no denying that trucks have become more fuel-efficient. Mercedes-Benz recently conducted a comparative truck trial, which reinforced this contention. The company pitted a modern Mercedes-Benz Actros 1844 against a 1964 model year Mercedes-Benz LP 1620, which were driven from Stuttgart to Milan and then back again. The veteran truck consumed 2.34 litres of fuel per ton transported over a distance of 100 kilometres, while the Actros needed only 1.27 litres. This represents an almost 50% reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions were about 98% less in the Actros 1844 than in the LP 1620.

FTA members are already investing millions in cleaner and greener engines – such as those that power the latest Actros range. And Oades insists that the industry doesn’t want to duck and dive its responsibilities. Instead, it does want to take responsibility for its impact on the environment. “However, it is not easy being green in the haulage sector and a fuel duty has been the weapon of choice used to beat companies into submission, despite the fact that this has no real bearing on the amount of diesel burned by the sector,” he points out. The FTA hopes that its findings, which will be released each January, will give policy makers a reliable evidence base for future carbon reduction strategies.

The FTA’s efforts are being supported by commercial vehicle manufacturers, who are unleashing a barrage of green products.

Volvo Trucks has started field-testing methane-diesel engines in Sweden. The engines are fitted to two Volvo 7-litre models, the Volvo FL and Volvo FE.

Mercedes-Benz has unveiled a battery-powered Vito, which will enter production this year. They boast zero emissions and low noise levels.

Iveco has developed a natural gas powered Daily, which has already been used for recycling and street cleansing operations in the United Kingdom. The vehicle has been compared to a similar diesel-powered vehicle, and it offers a 62% CO2 emission and 30% fuel saving.

MAN has launched its Lion’s City hybrid bus, which stores its braking energy, allowing it to quietly accelerate away from bus stops. Depending on the extent to which the vehicle is loaded and the topography, this hybrid bus can run up to several hundred metres purely on electricity.

These products (there are lots more out there) are just the tips of the environmental iceberg – and the good news is that commercial vehicles will continue to get greener all the time. Notes Andreas Renschler, the board of management member responsible for Daimler Trucks and Daimler Buses: “In ten years time, commercial vehicles will consume 20% less fuel and CO2 emissions will be reduced by the same amount.”

The industry is already working off a relatively low emissions base, so that’s good news indeed.

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Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publication in southern Africa.
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