The Department for Transport (DFT) last week reaffirmed the government approach to reducing carbon footprint in road haulage; self-governance. The rationale in a concise report (by DFT standards at least) is essentially that the Freight Transport Association’s Logistics Carbon Reduction Scheme (LCRS) illustrates effective self-governance in the absence of any real evidence of lack of focus in the wider industry.
Explicit reference is made to the government’s desire; reduced footprint, being aligned with the industry’s; reduced footprint. Reduced footprint is, of course, desirable to any operator as it likely means that the haulier has travelled more loaded miles using less fuel; thereby saving money and increasing profit whilst simultaneously saving polar bears.
It would take some significant creativity, and a stretched argument, to suggest a scenario where a hauliers’ success in reducing footprint would not be beneficial; short of it being as a result of a drop in their volume of business at least.
Interestingly the coalition has acted significantly in the industry’s interest in this parliament on fuel, longer trailers and avoidance of additional regulation. Somewhat surprisingly given the economic climate, the ‘green’ credentials of the Liberal Democrats’ and the Conservative re-birth as a party of environmental conscience. Regardless of where you stand on the subject it is a truism that LGVs are a big contributor to UK emissions; so presumably something that would be targeted by political parties all trying to reinforce their green credentials.
Thankfully perhaps, if it does come to pass that the industry is not improving quickly enough in the future it is difficult to see what kind of regulation could be put into place in order to meet targets. This does not necessarily mean it could not happen, as usually where there is a will there is a way. A blanket requirement, however, for the industry to reduce emissions by 8% in total (the current LCRS target) would be impossible given it would not take into account the actual volume of freight moved (a haulier in growth mode could easily double their footprint but through synergies and efficient operating reduce emissions per mile travelled hugely). This is something that the LCRS seeks to avoid through a complex set of targets and considerations.
More importantly the vast number of commercial enterprises involved makes a ‘team’ target unworkable let alone the difficulty in eliminating ‘wasteful’ emissions across them. Conservatively at least 20% of every mile travelled in LGVs is delivering nothing but fresh air to the destination after-all. The focus has got to be on removing this wastage in line with more eco-friendly equipment (the easier and already regulated part).
Other jurisdictions have promoted tax incentive schemes for meeting certain ‘green’ criteria, however this seems so complex and costly to implement and manage as to be a non-starter. Ensuring that eco-driver training, as it is referred to in the DFT document is a part of the Driver CPC would be a step in the right direction towards improving emissions from vehicles. It is perhaps perplexing that this has not been made a pre-requisite; however this still relies on individual operators monitoring and managing fuel usage, and as such is not a real ‘control’ by government anyway.
Self-governance does appear to be the only practical policy, however it is important that the industry continues to display real desire and progress in making carbon savings. If this cannot be achieved it is almost inconceivable that some form of additional regulation, that could be significantly disruptive, will not be imposed on the industry at some point in the future.