Mark Adams FCILT, Managing Director of loading equipment specialists Transdek, says: “The EU’s apparent change of heart to exempt double-deck trailers and rigid trucks in relation to its original proposal to restrict UK trailer heights to 4m is very welcome, but with the sword still hanging over the fate of single deck trailers, there is, for now, little cause to celebrate.
With some 80% of UK trailers running at 4.2m or above, this new development has been met with further widespread condemnation from all quarters of the UK transport industry – with strong justification.
Nevertheless, for those of us who have spent the last 30 years persuading some of the UK’s biggest fleet operators of the benefits of operating double deck trailers, which take full advantage of the UK’s current unrestricted height allowance, their seeming exemption from the proposed vehicle type approval standards marks a definite step in the right direction.
Double-deck vehicles currently in operation in the UK represent just 3.5% of the total number of 44 tonne vehicles on the road. And yet, according to the Department for Transport (DfT), removing these vehicles would increase road mileage by 260 million miles, haulage costs by £203 million, and carbon emissions by 222,000 tonnes per annum.
That these savings may be safeguarded is a great thing, but this close call also raises the question, why aren’t we making more of double-decking? If taking just 7,000 double-deck vehicles off the roads can be shown to have such a major negative impact, imagine the positive effect of adding more of these vehicles. Forgetting the 4m height restriction for now, we estimate that around 30% of the UK’s road freight is suitable for double-deck distribution – an almost tenfold increase on the current situation. Based on the DfT’s figures, you do the math.
In an industry which is being squeezed from all sides by the green lobby and spiralling fuel costs, any opportunity to improve efficiency must be grabbed with both hands. However, the opportunity to increase efficiency by 40% through double-decking – as compared to around half of that from hybrid engine technology for example – has been either overlooked or discounted by many major logistics service providers (LSPs). One of the issues is that, whilst double-decking delivers massive savings to the customer, unless the delivery vehicle can also be used to backhaul a load, there is no benefit to the service provider.
A major food manufacturer told me that they’d spoken to their LSP regarding the possibility of double-decking product from Europe to the UK, however, the LSP had said they couldn’t pass on any cost benefit because they couldn’t find back-loads.
In an industry where the word collaboration is freely bandied about, this seems to signal a serious lack of commitment.
Of course, double-deck distribution is not for everyone – many loads will clearly weigh out way before they cube out, especially in a powered-double deck vehicle due to the weight of the hydraulics used to power the second deck.
Recently, however, the development of hydraulic loading bay systems have given retailers and manufacturers the ability to introduce lighter, lower-cost, fixed double-deck trailers. Unsurprisingly at the vanguard of this movement is Tesco which, in addition to using fixed double-deck vehicles to trunk product between distribution centres, is in the process of installing double-deck lifts at 100 stores to allow double-deck vehicles to be used for store deliveries. To date, this has saved 12.5 million road miles and nearly 17,000 tonnes of CO2. Assuming a cost of £1.50 per mile, the cost benefits are obvious.
The industry needs to keep a close eye on further developments and make sure our voice is heard in Europe. The EC’s proposal for a 4m-height limit on UK vehicles makes no economic, environmental or plain common sense. But at the same time, it can serve as a beneficial reminder. By forcing the industry to assess what it stands to lose, it also uncovers a massive opportunity to make more of what we have.”
About the author: Mark Adams, Managing Director of Transdek, has worked in the transport and logistics arena for almost 50 years and in that time has risen from the position of junior clerk to become a recognised industry expert and innovator.
Since the early 1980s, he has been at the forefront of the drive towards more efficient commercial vehicle designs and usage within the UK. As Managing Director of Carrymaster, Mark produced the first ever double deck trailers in Britain. Later on, he was to develop and patent a large number of highly successful trailers and loading systems, all focused on carrying increased product volumes to provide cost savings and environmental benefits.
Based on his lifelong work in the industry, in 2009, Mark was made a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport (FCILT).
Transdek is a UK manufacturer of strategic, innovative loading bay equipment and multi award-winning loading systems, designed to improve efficiency, safety and cost-effectiveness and to enhance future logistics sustainability.
The company provides a complete range of products to service the movement of products at distribution centres, stores and factories and offers full project management capabilities to ensure the best systems and solutions to optimise product flows and overall logistics efficiencies.
Transdek UK Ltd
Leon Butler, Operations Director
Tel: 01302 752276