The logistics director of a major consumer goods manufacturer told me that there is no reason why it could not share vehicles with its competitors. After all, it competed on the excellence of its products – not transport – and the cost saving would be significant.
That was 25 years ago, and to the best of my knowledge, it still has not happened.
Now there is a new initiative, FreightShareLab (FSL) funded by Innovate UK, the government’s innovation agency, that aims to demonstrate how strategic data and asset sharing between multiple road/rail carriers and shippers can reduce empty running and under-utilisation of freight vehicles.
The 30-month project aims to provide real-world validation of a feasibility study conducted by World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) in 2016, called the Road Freight Lab. This study estimated that asset sharing could deliver a 20 per cent reduction in fleet CO₂ emissions from road freight transport.
The FSL consortium partners which includes Route Monkey, Transport Systems Catapult, and Heriot Watt will develop an open data software platform for the optimisation and co-ordination of shared assets.
“Unlocking the spare capacity inherent within the logistics sector will deliver substantial efficiency savings to commercial vehicle users, shippers and the British economy,” explains
“Through the application of advanced optimisation algorithms, FreightShareLab will allow freight companies to collaborate and share their spare vehicle capacity,” says Colin Ferguson, managing director of fleet and optimisation for Trakm8, which owns Route Monkey.
Andrew Traill of Transport Systems Catapult argues that the transport industry is being swept by a technological revolution… “The freight sector, which often operates on fine margins, can gain a great deal from capitalising on the innovation this is bringing.”
This is all thoroughly praiseworthy, but I suspect that the biggest obstacle to increasing asset sharing is the suspicion of companies that their competitors are gaining a bigger advantage from the scheme than they are.
It’s time that we got serious about vehicle sharing. And technology that not only highlights the savings that are available but also makes the process more transparent could be what is needed to kick start the process.
I hope it works, but I won’t hold my breath.