Countering particulates? Why freight platforms should not be ignored…

By James Gordon, Editor

If you use collaborative logistics platforms on a daily basis, then I probably don’t need to spell out the benefits. I probably don’t need to mention how operational efficiency gains brought about by enhanced load consolidation, or how reduced fuel costs from fewer empty miles have improved your bottom line. Nor do I need to tell you that freight exchange platforms can help to cut emissions and greenhouse gases. But I will.

You see, with the air quality debate capturing the imagination of the public and the media, the road freight sector – and those who work in it – have become part of the story. The UK government has acted by slapping a ban on the sales of new petrol and diesel non-hybridised vehicles from 2040. And throughout Britain and Europe it is likely that a raft of ultra-low emission zones will be implemented in large cities in the next few years.

Many believe that burden of regulation and toxin taxes could have a devastating effect on the hundreds of thousands of owner operators, small fleets and the local businesses that they serve. Why? Because many freelancers and small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) simply won’t be able to afford to upgrade their trucks to Euro-6 standards. And what’s more from May, 2019, when the ULEZ comes into force in central London, the minimum daily amount for hauliers and couriers operating vehicles with a pre-2006 number plate will be £20.

Clean Air Zones

However, will the measures, which the government outlined last year in its Air Quality Plan, prove wholly effective in improving air quality? Take a number of clean air zones, which have been agreed for Southampton, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and London, for example. Environmental campaigners have called for more zones like these to be introduced, but will they really rid the air that we breathe of harmful emissions and particulates? [i]

Some think not. Why? Well take particulates for instance. While the emission zones could lead to a significant reduction of tailpipe emissions, some believe that they will have little to no effect on emissions that are created by brake, tyre, clutch and road wear.

But just how harmful are these particulates to our health? No one quite knows as very few studies have been conducted. However, what we do know is that according to a JRC Science and Policy report by the European Commission’s in-house Science Service team, “exhaust and non-exhaust sources contribute almost equally to total traffic-related PM10 emissions”. The study also found that “brake, tyre and road wear along with road dust resuspension were the most important non-exhaust related sources”. [ii]

How freight exchanges can add value…

So if emission zones can’t stop harmful non-exhaust particulates from escaping into the air, what is the solution? For many in the industry the answer lies not in government intervention but in self-regulation. And collaborative logistics platforms can perform an increasingly important role in helping us to cleanse our towns and cities of toxic particulates.

But how? Well, by significantly reducing a member’s dead mileage, means less time spent in the road, which in turn could mean fewer tailpipe emissions and fewer PM10 emissions from brake, clutch and tyre wear.

Secondly as collaborative logistics platforms increase in size, so too do their virtual fleets. Take the Transport Exchange Group for instance. It has a fleet numbering over 40,000 vehicles. With collaboration deeply etched into the fabric of our Courier Exchange and Haulage Exchange platforms, and as we enter a new age of data, technology will only provide more opportunities for the industry to work together.

In time, for example, the blockchain will provide members with a greater level of visibility regarding real-time vehicle maintenance data. That will enable the freight exchange community to check the health of brake pads, clutches and tyres. In the future, it may also allow them to see the level of particulates that a worn brake pad, old clutch, or tyre is pushing out into the atmosphere.

Setting the standard for particulates…

If, there is appetite too in the membership ranks – and that is the key –  platforms could elect to set their own standards for brake pads, tyres and clutches. Quite simply anyone falling outside these requirements would not face sanction, but incentives could be offered to those who are prepared to allocate time and money into regular servicing.

Finally, large freight exchanges provide an accessible platform to educate and to inform. Take tyre wear for example. While eliminating total tyre particulates is an extremely challenging task, simple steps such as ensuring each tyre is inflated to the correct pressure, and that the vehicle in question is using the most suitable tyre in its delivery environment, could have a big impact in reducing tyre wear particulates. Real-time performance data and leading-edge tyre monitoring technology will help in this respect. However, collaborative logistics platforms, which have already won the trust of large virtual fleets, are perhaps most important as a ways and means to promote real change.

But, I guess that I don’t need to tell you that. After all, that’s probably why you belong to a freight exchange platform, right?

[i] The Guardian
Government’s air quality plan branded inadequate by city leaders
By Rowena Mason and Damian Carrington
Date: 26, July, 2017

[ii] JRC Science and Policy Reports

Non-exhaust traffic related emissions. Brake and tyre wear PM

European Commission

Joint Research Centre
Institute of Energy and Transport

By Theodoros Grigoratos and Giorgio Martini

Paper published: 2014

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