Fleets sceptical on reaching EU climate change targets
Today trucks carry some three-quarters of all freight transported in Europe and road freight is projected to grow a further 60 per cent over the coming three decades. Yet all is not blue skies and smooth sailing within the sector; according to a report published by Goodyear Dunlop, as many as 15 per cent of European hauliers worry they may be out of business within eight years due to increasing environmental regulation unless substantial progress towards improving fleet fuel efficiency occurs. The 44-page document, titled ‘The Road to 2020’, was released in tandem with a fleet symposium the tyre maker staged in Brussels on 25 January.
In its introduction, Goodyear Dunlop Europe president Arthur de Bok and EMEA Commercial Business Unit vice-president Michel Rzonzef jointly state the report’s aim is to “help fleets better understand, and therefore better prepare for, the needs of the road transport industry in 2020 and beyond.” Based upon research gleaned from more than 400 small, large, long and regional haul fleet operators across the UK and six other key European markets, the information within The Road to 2020 is intended to offer fresh insights into how Europe’s fleets are preparing to overcome the dual challenges of rising fuel prices and increased political pressure to reduce carbon emissions.
Amongst the pertinent facts within the report is the disclosure that 30 per cent of European fleets currently have no plans in place to respond to upcoming European CO2 regulation scheduled to be implemented in the coming decade. And while the majority of fleets are addressing this issue, the great hope is that industry and policy-makers can aid them in achieving greater efficiency: The greatest motivator for achieving better fuel efficiency is EU incentives – 35 per cent of fleet operators state they want the European Union to invest in fuel efficient technology and development programs. A further 26 per cent of fleet operators believe modelling tools that predict lifetime fuel and cost savings of potential equipment purchases would help, while 18 per cent look to pan-European legislation that incentivises efficient fleet management as a source of additional motivation.
“The road freight sector is facing enormous pressure to help meet Europe’s ambitious climate change targets, but despite their commitment to fuel economy, we found many fleets could be better prepared to handle the cost and operational impacts of a potential carbon regulation,” said Michel Rzonzef. “The research confirmed that the overwhelming majority of fleets already have robust fuel efficiency measures in place, and therefore struggle to see what else they can do to improve efficiency and lower carbon emissions to achieve even stronger goals. Low rolling resistance tyres are one option to improve a fleet’s fuel efficiency amongst others, such as eco-driving training for truck drivers, improved logistics, route planning and aerodynamics on vehicles.“
With prices at the pump rising and two in five fleets reporting they are under customer pressure to ‘green’ their operations, it is unsurprising that 69 per cent of European fleets today are working toward self-imposed fuel savings targets and 92 per cent regularly measure their fuel consumption as a way of monitoring costs. Just under 70 per cent of fleets have instituted driver training/incentive programmes to improve fuel economy, while 42 per cent have switched to more fuel efficient tyres.
Pessimism over further reductions
Yet 52 per cent of fleets believe they won’t be able to improve fuel efficiency by more than a further ten per cent. And only a tenth of those studied opine that the sector can achieve the efficiency targets outlined in the EU’s 20-20-20 low-carbon commitments, namely reducing greenhouse gas emissions to at least 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, ensuring 20 per cent of EU energy consumption comes from renewable resources by 2020 and reducing energy consumption by 20 per cent through greater energy efficiency. A fifth of all fleets are unsure as to whether any further savings can be made at all.
Goodyear Dunlop notes that fleets based in countries with lower fuel prices express greater optimism. In both Poland and Spain, where fuel costs are below the EU average, a fifth of fleets are confident they can achieve a 20 per cent further efficiency savings by 2020. In the UK, however, where fuel prices are higher than the European average, a third of fleets claim they have done all they can to improve fuel efficiency, and no more savings can be made.
Goodyear Dunlop’s recommendations
Based on its findings, Goodyear Dunlop calls on policy-makers to consider the following recommendations to help the commercial road transport sector reduce emissions and improve efficiency: Making TPMS mandatory on all new heavy duty vehicles; investing in improved tyre pressure monitoring technology for heavy duty vehicles; offering incentives to fleet operators who invest in aerodynamic improvements or purchase tyres that achieve A, B, C grades for rolling resistance and wet grip on the EU tyre label; adjusting EU restrictions on weight and height for heavy duty vehicles to improve efficiency.