Editor’s Blog: The changing face of urban logistics….

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Yesterday, in London, the Mayor’s office committed to a 1 March 2021 start date for minimum commercial vehicle emission standards of Euro-6 across the capital’s low emission zones. It was originally due to be implemented this month, but Covid concerns put the deadline back by four months.

This line in the sand led, inevitably, too much complaint from trade bodies. But I’m at a loss to understand as to why? I can see it is difficult for small firms, or operators of specialist road-going equipment… but for the vast majority of logistics operations relying on road transport to deliver goods to businesses and homes in the capital it should not be an issue.

The scheme was first mooted back in 2013, and Euro-6 engines were mandatory for all new HGV purchases from 2014, while for vans it was introduced in September 2016. There’s been plenty of time for logistics operations to plan buying cycles accordingly. Seven years is about the average age of a commercial vehicle above 7.5 tonnes GVW in the UK, so may logistics functions will be on their second or third generations of Euro-6 vehicles.

Road transport is the arteries of logistics in the UK, connecting the warehouse to the customer. While valiant efforts have been made to introduce rail and water-based delivery options, the truth is commerce runs on the road, and these multimodal routes cannot handle the volumes required. Same-day and next-day delivery options for the majority of the population could not function without it.

Equally, logistics operations have had to face up to the fact that London is congested and crowded, and there is a demand from voters to clean urban air – or, at least there was in the last mayoral election, given the platform on which Sadiq Khan was elected. Express and e-commerce focused couriers have certainly adapted accordingly, think about DPD’s all-electric parcel depot in Westminster for example.

Given the time that logistics has had to prepare for such legislation being introduced in the capital (and in other cities around the country for that matter) I find it difficult to swallow the line that the scheme has an economic impact across logistics. Investing in new equipment has a trickle-down effect throughout the economy, and in many cases drives innovation. Look at electric truck trials by the UPS

Furthermore, e-commerce is booming. Home and business deliveries are increasing exponentially, and large fleet operators in the capital are having strong years. The Covid pressures on express delivery fleets, on supermarket home deliveries… has been on expansion and sourcing new vehicle options.

It is not a good look for the sector that the first reaction to new legislation affecting logistics movements in London is to say the industry is not ready. The vast majority of the sector is ready, and has been ready for a long time. It should be embracing the good news story that it is ready to clean up the air in the capital, and meet customer expectations.

Christopher Walton, Editor, Logistics Manager

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