This opportunity is strongly linked to reducing the total kilometres travelled. Loads can be consolidated from smaller vehicles into larger vehicles (e.g. semi-trailer to B-Double) and loaded in such a way as to maximise carrying capacity. Additional opportunities to achieve full vehicle utilisation are back loading and/or cooperation between fleets and/or customers who agree to pool resources.
There is significant discussion between government and industry surrounding maximising vehicle loads. One of the key barriers to the adoption of this innovation relates to the capacity of the existing New South Wales road network (particularly road bridges) to support the higher load vehicles.
One of the least tractable challenges in road transport operations is reducing the empty running of vehicles by finding opportunities to backload trucks after their primary delivery. Load consolidation at least reduces the overall number of trucks running empty, if not the overall capacity.
It can take considerable time for fleets to review and establish new loading practices, purchase extra trailers and partner with customers who wish to work together to consolidate loads. The decision process in getting management agreement on this issue in the first place can take even longer.
However, the benefits can begin to accrue immediately in terms of fuel savings, staff workload and reduced congestion on the road network (which may not be an immediate or obvious benefit for the operator).
Operators can experience fuel savings through more efficient use of their fleets. The elimination of empty running vehicles holds a fuel saving and carbon abatement potential of up to 30%. In addition, operators may find that they are able to offer increased flexibility to customers.
Key Implementation considerations
Apart from issues related to re-tasking staff or vehicles within the fleet, load consolidation on an internal (company basis) can be fairly straightforward.
When pooling vehicles between operators there are obviously greater challenges to resolve, including protecting competitive advantage for each business, vehicle branding issues and sharing cost savings fairly, without revealing sensitive information to a competitor. Strategic rationalisation issues can also complicate this process (whose driver to use and, if staff reductions are necessary, who undertakes these), as can the need to track load, fuel, delivery and cost information in a way that may overwhelm current practices and information systems.
Examples of implementation
High Productivity Vehicles
This case study outlines ways to minimise the impact of the doubling of forestry freight in the Green Triangle Region. The study includes analysis of performance of current operations and the suggested efficiency improvements of different fleet configurations which include quad B-Doubles and steerable wheel trailers.
The authors identify that the use of B-Doubles would reduce the required fleet size by 25%. A road train could achieve a further 15% reduction in fleet size, with up to 8000 fewer truck movements a year, cost savings of over 27%, and fuel savings of up to 22%.
For more information, see Brown, MW & Walsh, DJ n.d. Potential economic impact of high productivity vehicles for woodchip transport in the Green Triangle Region of Australia.
This case study of Focus, a DIY store in the UK, highlights how double-deck trailers (compared to vehicles with single decks) can improve the efficiency of a business by increasing load volume, cutting unnecessary mileage and reducing fleet size. Focus found that in comparison to a single-deck trailer fuel costs were reduced by £108 (based on a fuel price of £0.70/L) and they consequently had lower CO2 emissions.
For more information, see Department for Transport (2011b) Focus on double decks, Focus (DIY) Ltd case study Freight Best Practice, UK Government
Environmental Technologies Training and Awareness Raising (ETTAR) case study
This case study presentation walks the reader through the common scenario of how to achieve optimal vehicle utilisation. Although this is told from a manufacturer’s perspective it covers a wide range of issues but mainly looks at rethinking the loading layout in trucks to maximise carrying capacity.
For more information, see ETTAR (2011) The freight industry in the 21st century – impacts and risks presentation
JW Suckling Transport
This case study shows how one fleet grouped operation for the distribution of different products for a number of customers within a similar geographical region using a single vehicle. This in turn reduced distance travelled, fuel costs and vehicle utilisation.
For more information, see Department for Transport 2011, Consolidate and save, JW Suckling Transport Ltd case study Freight Best Practice, UK Government.
Nestle and United Biscuits
This case study explores the initiative of sharing loads on trucks. By overcoming the barrier of competitive advantage and consolidating their loads, United Biscuits and Nestle jointly removed over 280,000 truck kilometres a year from the road network.
For more information, see IGD (2009) Nestle and United Biscuits – Taking a unique approach to collaboration
For the full report, see Fuel for Thought – Identifying potential energy efficiency opportunities in the Australian road and rail sectors (opens in a new window) PDF 1.5 MB.