At the time of writing, Transport for London (TfL) has just produced its Freight Plan.
In an administration that is dominated to a fantastic degree by passenger transport, the TfL Freight Unit headed by Steve Steel has plugged away for the last few years trying to get freight properly on the agenda in the capital.
To manage this at all is something, to get it on the agenda with something of a positive approach as opposed to what is often perceived as purely ‘truck-bashing’ is an achievement indeed.
The potentially positive element I refer to is the Freight Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) which is due to be launched in the spring at the CV show. Without wishing to appear pompous, the TfL Freight Unit appear to understand some of the realities of delivering on the ground in an environment as supercharged and sometimes hostile as London and are looking to offer help and benefits to operators registering on the FORS scheme.
There is even some talk about the benefits extending to relaxation of the Lorry Control Scheme for compliant operators and even discussion about reduced congestion charges (don’t hold your breath).
A central part of the FORS scheme is the London Freight Booster, developed with Skills for Logistics and supported and funded by the LDA. The Booster represents the culmination of a number of workshops and consultations looking at delivering in London, not just driving to the drop but practices at the drop, looking for the drop and moving to the next one.
Starting with van deliveries based on the Carry and Deliver Goods qualification, and moving on to LGVs, the London Freight Booster suite will eventually also cover the traffic office and load planning. An example of how the London Freight Booster can help came from one of the initial consultations where, for a company delivering in London, the load planning happened on Humberside. To the person in Hull planning the deliveries, the four miles between Camden and Elephant and Castle, seemed relatively easy for the driver and the time allowed bore little resemblance to the reality of driving between the two. In such circumstances, the driver is up against it because of time, his/her mood deteriorates and good driving practice goes to the wall. It’s the detail that counts.
It is clearly too early to start shouting about success given that the FORS scheme is yet to launch, but initial reactions to the freight plan from the trade press and the trade associations seem favourable which is uncharted territory for TfL and its predecessors.
From our point of view, the working relationship that is being built between ourselves, TfL, the London Development Agency and the London Learning and Skills Council is a good one and an example of Best Practice that we will look to spread elsewhere as these bodies have come together and produced something effective for London.
The trade press suggests that TfL has plans to promote the FORS scheme to other parts of the UK and indeed elsewhere in Europe as part of a solution for urban freight. We hope that the scheme does enjoy wider recognition because the London Freight Booster can be easily translated for other urban centres and, who knows, we may even get similar types of cooperation between the various bodies to deliver for the city in question. Now that’s what I call being in the vanguard.