And if you make it into the city centre, you are at the mercy of the traffic wardens. These are controlled by the local boroughs which often appear to be motivated more by the desire to raise money than promote efficient traffic flows.
At least one borough has been accused of ignoring its own rule which allows vehicles to stop for 20 minutes to unload goods next to shops and instead tickets vehicles after two to three minutes.
Major parcel carriers report that parking fines in London can cost them up to £50,000 – a month – each.
What seems to be missing is any recognition that freight vehicles are not there for fun but to provide a service – how else do the goods get into the stores to attract the shoppers and, particularly in London, the tourists.
However, there are some positive signs. Last month, at its Greater London freight council meeting, the Freight Transport Association hosted the launch of Transport for London’s “London Freight Plan” consultation.
The move is significant because it is trying to develop the first city-wide, 10-year plan for improving the delivery of freight. It sets out key objectives for improving delivery access as well as providing a platform for the implementation of best practice schemes across the capital.
The consultation will develop a range of ideas designed to make life easier and more flexible for companies needing to make essential deliveries. These include a freight operator recognition scheme, consolidation centres for distribution, development of quiet vehicles for night work, support and advice for local authorities in identifying freight needs, and the progression of the “Freight Quality Partnership” concept where the interests of residents, the environment and industry are considered together.
London mayor Ken Livingstone said, “Over the next ten years, the population of London is anticipated to increase by a further 800,000 people, resulting in increased demand for goods and services. The decisions we take today will have a lasting impact on how London will function and operate in the future and it is essential that we take a long-term view about how freight is transported.”
TfL Commissioner Peter Hendy, accepts that TfL cannot deliver a freight plan on its own. “We believe that with the support of the freight industry we will be able to make a real difference to the way in which freight can sustainably provide for the future needs of the capital.”
Gordon Telling, the FTA’s head of policy for the region, reckons the plan fits well with the FTA’s own policy initiatives and its efforts to move thinking away from banning freight towards a more proactive and engaging planning for freight.
“We recognise that this is a first step of a longer journey and welcome the opportunity over coming months to further refine and develop the many proposals that are outlined in this consultation document,” he says.
While the biggest problems for operators undoubtedly arise in London, some of the most innovative solutions come from Bristol. A huge amount of interest was generated a couple of years ago by a unique scheme to tackle Bristol’s city centre traffic congestion and pollution. The city council said that the first few weeks of the scheme had already seen a 51 per cent reduction in delivery vehicle movements serving participating retailers in and around the city’s Broadmead Shopping Centre.
The Bristol Freight Consolidation Scheme initially recruited ten retailers including Lush, Monsoon, Tie Rack and Accessorize, and Bristol City Council selected Exel to implement and manage the consolidation centre for a trial period of eight months.
The EU-funded scheme works by providing a centre at Emerald Park in Emersons Green, a few miles north of Broadmead, where retail deliveries are dropped off and consolidated onto single loads for onward delivery to retailers.
Besides reducing traffic congestion and pollution, the retailers benefit from definite delivery times, more effective stock replenishment and improved staff planning and productivity.
Councillor Helen Holland, the city council’s executive member for external affairs and partnerships, said at the time: “This initiative has drawn on the experience of other European cities to develop the first UK consolidation scheme serving a city centre. The positive response we have received to this scheme has exceeded our expectations and we are delighted to have ten retailers receiving consolidated deliveries from the centre. We hope to continue to develop and expand this scheme to reduce congestion and improve environmental conditions, making Broadmead a better place for retailers and shoppers alike.”
The pilot consolidation scheme was part of the European Union’s VIVALDI project to develop clean, integrated urban transport solutions. The four-year project is jointly led by Bristol; Bremen in Germany; Nantes in France; Aalborg in Denmark and Kaunas in Lithuania.
Experience from the trial phase to date showed that if all city centre retailers were receiving consolidated deliveries there would be a reduction of some 48,000 freight trips into the city centre each year, equal to a reduction in over 750,000 lorry miles.
The council’s recently published Local Transport Plan for the period 2006/7 to 2010/11 highlights the scheme as an example of good practice saying: “It began in May 2004 and to date 50 retailers have joined, ranging from small independents to major high street stores. Delivery movements for those involved have reduced by 67 per cent, removing 19,900 lorry miles in and around the city centre.
“The service has also provided an improved service for the stores involved, with more reliable and convenient deliveries allowing the retailers to spend more time with their customers.”
And it pledges to continue to reduce the impact of freight on Bristol city centre through extension of the Broadmead freight consolidation centre.
The council says it wants to develop, with the operator, value added services for retailers, such as remote storage and reverse flows of packaging, to move towards a more sustainable business model and explore the potential for applying the freight consolidation concept elsewhere in the area.
It has also promised in liaison with the Freight Quality Partnership for the area to review unloading arrangements and delivery times and extend the coverage of its Commercial Vehicle Drivers Atlas as well as “identifying with road freight interests, opportunities for the development of additional rest areas for HGV drivers”.
A lot of work has been done on these concepts on the continent and, according to the European Commission, in Germany partnerships between logistics contractors are reducing lorry numbers and improving the urban environment.
Partnerships known as City Logistik companies in Germany are in operation in Berlin, Bremen, Ulm, Kassel and Freiburg.
The Freiburg scheme has reduced total journey times from 566 hours to 168 hours (per month), the monthly number of truck operations from 440 to 295 (a 33 per cent reduction) and the time spent by lorries in the city from 612 hours to 317 hours (per month). The number of customers supplied or shipments made has remained the same. The Kassel scheme showed a reduction of vehicle kilometres travelled by 70 per cent and the number of delivering trucks by 11 per cent. This has reduced the costs of all the companies involved.
Truck designers are getting to grips with the special needs of operators involved in city deliveries as the recent spate of vehicle launches shows.
City deliveries tend to be made by vans and light trucks and there are some notable trends such as the introduction of automated gearboxes. These have become commonplace on heavier trucks as they can improve fuel consumption and protect the clutch from bad drivers. However, the cost has tended to work against them for lighter vehicles despite the fact that they are most useful for stop start delivery work in a city and can make a big difference to driver tiredness.
However, MAN has now said its TipMatic automatic gearbox will be fitted as standard to all its Euro 4 trucks from 7.5 tonnes right up to 44 tonnes.
When drivers are jumping in and out of vehicles all day, good cross-cab access is a boon and improving that has also been a priority. Renault’s new Midlum range of 7.5 to 18 tonners has a dashboard-mounted gearshift lever with six different gearboxes, four manually operated and two automatic models, to cater for the widest possible range of needs. Isuzu has launched the new look NQR light truck range, all featuring Nees 2 Easyshift gearbox. Currently 70 per cent of all Isuzu NQR 7.5t vehicles being sold here in UK feature the Easyshift system.
Iveco’s new Daily has a redesigned cab layout with a dashboard-mounted gear change which is not only easier to use but makes cross-cab access much better. There is a choice of five or six-speed manual gearboxes or a six-speed automatic. Iveco says fuel consumption should be comparable with previous models as improved aerodynamics generally offset the slightly less fuel efficient engine. There is also a CNG-engine available. And Iveco is promising a hybrid diesel/electric version which, it reckons, could cut fuel consumption by 25 per cent.
Volkswagen’s Crafter, which is replacing the LT, is the biggest van in the Volkswagen CV range. When it is released in September it will have a six-speed manual gearbox fitted as standard, although an automated manual box will be optional. There is a dash-mounted gear lever.
Bespoke Bodies has built for Waterfields Bakeries an Iveco Eurocargo body that features a sealed off chilled compartment gangway, with access to and from the tail lift being gained via a door to the main ambient compartment. By preventing the driver stepping directly onto the tail-lift, and allowing him to turn the trolley through 180 degrees before pushing it onto the lift – the design provides a much safer working environment.
What the London freight plan says
The London Freight Plan consultation document sets out a number of key tasks over the next few years. These include:
Develop and roll out a programme of freight training in London. The aim is to build on previous training initiatives and integrate into national programmes to ensure the particular requirements for London are addressed. The approach is to work with industry to develop independent benchmarks that can be used by individual operators to target training to produce the best results. This approach will not solely focus on the drivers but will include load planners and managers within the freight operators, as they play a key role in determining driver behaviour. The initiative will also include specific freight training for borough and other local authority personnel.
Develop and roll out a Freight Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) in London. This is designed to engage with industry to build relationships and secure buy-in to its aims, which are to promote best practice in terms of safety and occupational road risk, fuel efficiency and environmental performance, and to recognise the achievements of operators in these areas. The goal is to recruit the majority of operators based in London or delivering into London onto the scheme over three stages of targeted marketing: pilot, pioneer and roll-out.
Improve reliability of London deliveries and freight movement through regulations, design and best practice. TfL says reliable access to legal delivery spaces will be promoted through the adoption of legal loading plans, the development of measures to identify and address PCN hot spots, and the introduction of pan-London information systems on delivery restrictions. Reliable journey planning will be assisted through the development of a real-time tour planning system linked to delivery restrictions information.
Promote modal shift through supply chain reconfiguration and planning changes where economically and environmentally practicable. This proposal seeks to develop conditions to promote terminal site development through the planning system and through building capacity with planners, operators and developers. Vehicle/barge technology will be developed to promote inter-modality and modal switch. Promoting modal change within the courier, servicing and maintenance sector aims to reduce the reliance on motorised vehicles and increase the use of foot, trolley or cycle modes where appropriate.
Promote consolidation through supply chain reconfiguration. TfL says the development of additional capacity including construction material consolidation centres will be promoted and assessment undertaken for nominated courier schemes and nominated waste collection contractor schemes. Opportunities for consolidation in wholesale markets and courier activity will be assessed.
Promote changes to freight transport specification/ fuel through supply chain reconfiguration. The development of the LLCS with the boroughs will be promoted – along with black box, adaptive speed control and improved driver standards. It will also investigate the potential to adopt the PIEK maximum noise emission approach (a Dutch noise abatement programme for night time deliveries). It also wants a recommended path to increased use of hydrogen-fuelled and electric hybrid vehicles. The Low Emission Zone, it says, will see the phasing out of older polluting vehicles and adoption of the new engine standards Euro IV and Euro V.