In a move destined to arouse the suspicions of the conspiracy theorists amongst us the Met Office released some statistics on Christmas Eve, of all days, around global temperature increases. It seems now that any news published on a day perceived to be convenient is ‘burying bad news’ and suspecting a rat, the bastion of journalistic standards, the Daily Mail, set about a hatchet job of significant proportions. Apparently the figures showed that the planet was no longer rapidly heating as a result of green-house gas emissions. Not surprisingly this was picked up by Fox in America, as they like a well researched, balanced view as much as any outlet. So we can all relax now, breathe a huge sigh of relief and leave as many lights on, send back the hybrid car and blow the dust off the patio heater without the fear of melting polar ice-caps, London flooding or Birmingham becoming a desert. Or can we?
The problem with this debate seems to be that people remember the story casting doubt on the phenomenon and take this as fact but then show little interest in seeing the more accurate view. Inevitably the original article spun the scientific evidence to breaking point, misrepresenting the views of the climate expert used to back it up to such a point as to remove any creditability that it may have had. The US government later on in January released the most authoritative report yet suggesting that there is no doubt that the average temperature of the earth is rising as a result of human activity. To somewhat less fanfare the Guardian was one of the only publications in the UK to present a more rounded view.
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From an industry point of view the issue is somewhat more straightforward as regardless of whether you ‘believe’ or not, reducing fuel usage, filling your trailer to capacity and reducing empty mileage are the cornerstones of efficient operation and profitability; green principles to the core. In December the Department for Transport released some information that provides some context in their document ‘Transport Statistics Great Britain 2012’.
Road Haulage (effectively the Road Transport excluding cars and taxis section on the graph above) has a significant impact on the environment, and clearly it is the responsibility of all working in Logistics to reduce this as much as is practically possible. Schemes such as the FTA’s Logistics Carbon Reduction Scheme (LCRS), tracking, fuel use technology and driver training are important in showing the industries pro-activity in this area. Given the proportions of shall we say, commercial, vehicles on the roads shown in the graph below, the output of greenhouse gas emissions can clearly be improved.
Much has been made of modal switches to rail freight which is clearly more environmentally friendly than road freight. However difficulties with capacity, cost and service speed can make a switch in mode difficult to get past customers. The volumes of freight moved by rail are indeed up in recent years, however the graph below shows that very little real progress has been made.
Until infrastructure improvements can be made to the rail network (and HS2 is definitely a step in the right direction) the distribution of essential goods by road is where efficiencies need to be made. There are a lot of available targets but the hugely competitive nature of the industry can make available savings difficult to attain. This is how the concept of collaboration has become in-vogue in the industry. An extremely logical concept, collaborating with your own colleagues in different departments, your suppliers, raw material providers, manufacturers and indeed competitors can bring about huge savings for any Road Haulage business. The difficulties in implementing the virtuous theory are a different question (one which I am going to write in detail in the next few blogs).
What is certain is that the science behind global warming is not all wrong or accentuated, there is pressure on governments to reduce carbon footprints and Road Hauliers could benefit hugely through more carbon efficient strategies. It is important that we all keep on working towards the objectives in the face of indifference in vast swathes of the media and thus the population at large.