Improving supply chain sustainability for HGVs

Electrification of the road network – a cut-through to net zero?

While the pace of change in the electrification of cars is clearly accelerating (almost 20% of new car sales in 2021 were electric vehicles), the pace of change in HGVs is far slower. Logistics UK undertook some research last year, and 70% of respondents were dissatisfied with the pace of change in the electrification of HGVs in the UK.

Despite the gloomy outlook, there does appear to be some good news on the horizon. A project team combining academia, freight companies, research organisations and infrastructure firms – under the banner “Innovate UK” are looking into the possibility of 7,500 Km of the UK road network being electrified with overhead cables (think electric cables over a railway track).  It is not cheap – £20bn in round numbers – but it is relatively fast (deliverable in 20 years) and would not require new infrastructure, just add-ons to the existing network.

More importantly, it could almost decarbonise the UK heavy freight business. And given the relatively slow pace of developments for battery power to support HGVs, this could be the step change required to deliver the aspiration to be net zero by 2050.

Transporting air

But the industry cannot simply wait for these developments to arrive in due course and jump on board happily – there is still too much that can and should be done now. Department for Transport statistics from July 2021 show that HGVs travelled almost 5 million kilometres on UK roads in 2019… while travelling completely empty. 

On top of this, there will be millions more miles where vehicles are considerably less than 50% full.

At Trym, we believe that there must be a better way, for the bottom line and the planet, focused on three key areas:

  • Measure – agree the scope of your supply chain that you want to measure (focus on what you can control) and measure the carbon impact of the current operation.
  • Do what you can – understanding current utilisation levels of fleet, containers and warehouses is a key enabler to improvement.  Analytics will help identify where efficiencies can be made, and costs (financial and carbon) reduced
  • Collaboration – visibility of requirements across multiple stakeholders will provide the opportunity to pool demand and deliver savings.  This requires a mindset (and metric) change to seek out opportunities and drive to the best answer, even if the simplest solution is to retain full control on a half empty vehicle.

With shifting consumer expectations, policy changes, and rising energy costs, now is the time to seriously think about the whole carbon output of your supply chain.

About the author

Jon’s client work extends across Manufacturers and Retailers with a scope that covers high level supply chain strategy through to detailed operational reviews and performance improvement. 

We are independent supply chain and warehouse consultants specialising in data analysis, leading strategy, and bringing a fresh perspective to your supply chain challenges.

© Trym Consulting