Will population growth require transport providers to hone green credentials?

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By David Upton, managing director, DA Systems Ltd.

Within the next 15 years, London's population is tipped to exceed 10 million people, making it the most heavily populated city in Europe after Moscow. It's already very busy and transportation management technology will inevitably play an essential role in cutting the impact the logistics operations inevitably have on the environment.

Reducing levels of congestion is one important aspect and 'out of hours' deliveries are a great first step. Support for e-commerce is another consideration because the amount of goods bought online either via the web or mobile devices, continues to rise and now accounts for 23 per cent of e-commerce sales according to IMRG.

They forecast that UK retailers are on course to dispatch around 900 million orders or 930 million parcels in 2014 with 120 million orders in December alone. This puts e-commerce levels at over 10 per cent of the total economy in the UK, with two thirds of all adults in the country shopping via the Internet.

Although online shopping reduces consumer road traffic to a degree, it increases the volume of commercial vehicles using the roads, so sustainability needs to be addressed. Environmental impact has always been discussed but with the Internet of Things and ability for devices to communicate with each other and existing systems, a truly sustainable approach can be achieved. It is only a matter of time before delivery companies are obliged to identify new ways to reduce their carbon footprints and environmental impact.

Good for business

Investing in ways to become more environmentally friendly is good for business, makes financial sense and helps to differentiate transport providers. Retailers are image conscious and are starting to seek partners who share their values in trying to minimise environmental impact. Innovations in the mobile world means obtaining green credentials is more attainable than ever. The availability of SatNav, job scheduling and signature capture on new devices with NFC and RFID capabilities and a more appealing 'consumerist' look and feel than previous rugged enterprise products, means greater user adoption.

In addition to improving productivity and cost savings, using an electronic proof of delivery, real-time job scheduling and route optimisation systems for instance, has been shown to have a significant impact on reducing physical costs i.e. of consumables and labour costs. It also has an impact on reducing CO2 and carbon footprint.

The transportation of raw materials and finished products are also a substantial source of carbon emissions in the supply chain. For some companies, logistics can be the primary component of supply chain carbon emissions. The Department of Transport found road transport accounts for 21.7 per cent of the UK's carbon emissions. Of that, 19.8 per cent is attributable to heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and 15.2 per cent to vans. The Government is aiming to position the UK at the global forefront of ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) development, manufacture and use, and has a vision for 'almost every car and van' to be zero-emission by 2050.

Introducing mobile data technology such as ePOD to drivers has had a significant impact not just by reducing costs, but also by improving the company's overall carbon footprint. And these cost savings are just as relevant to smaller and larger organisations.

Clearer picture

Not only will changing to logistics partners with greener credentials help meet a company's corporate social responsibility and environmental policies, utilising technology enables a clearer picture of deliveries, scheduling, managing peak times; reviewing carbon emissions, plus driver behaviour – in readable, legible reports based on date- and time-driven events.

A business can never entirely eliminate its environmental impact, but that is no reason to not take advantage of the technology available to reduce it. By having a green approach to your transport management helps to achieve positive environmental and financial goals.

Sources: IMRG E-commerce Index and Boston Consulting Group.

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