For the seventh year in a row, CLOSER organised the Nordic conference on the subject of high capacity transport (HCT). This year's online event, which was broadcast from Lindholmen Science Park, had around 150 participants.
Global demand for transport is expected to triple by 2050, which, if no changes are made, will lead to a doubling of carbon dioxide emissions. The Alliance for Logistics Innovation through Collaboration in Europa (ALICE) has drawn up a roadmap entitled "Towards Zero Emissions Logistics 2050" to identify the challenges involved and the direction we need to take.
HCT, or high capacity freight transport, will play an important role in meeting future demand for sustainable transport. The key is to use the right truck with the right load at the right time.
"The developments are not just about increasing the capacity of the system, but also about making use of intermodal transport. We need a variety of different solutions to reduce our environmental impact," said Thomas Asp from the Swedish Transport Administration, who is also a project leader at CLOSER.
Challenges and opportunities in Europe
Thomas Fabian, Director of Commercial Vehicles at the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA), presented an international overview with a European focus. Some of the biggest challenges that he identified in his scan of the horizon are linked to an increase in demand for transport and an aging fleet of diesel trucks. In some countries the average age of the fleet is almost 20. In addition, we have an inadequate charging and refuelling infrastructure, together with a lack of market acceptance for zero-emission powertrains.
If we are to achieve our environmental targets and become carbon-neutral by 2050, we need to make changes in a number of different areas.
"We must also put in place substantial fines for non-compliance so that there are clear incentives for meeting the targets," said Thomas Fabian.
How can we bring about the transition?
"We must reduce emission levels quickly and introduce more zero-emission vehicles onto our roads. We believe that we need to form alliances. Manufacturers and other stakeholders must take equal responsibility and reach a consensus about the challenges that are facing us," explained Thomas Fabian.
He described the need to set clear targets for developing the charging network and expanding the natural gas and hydrogen infrastructure. Radical changes in the regulations for the entire transport and logistics sector are also required to drive the transition.
ACEA is looking to the future with confidence. If the truck manufacturers are prepared to push forward with the transition and if priority is given to cooperation and new regulations are put in place, Thomas Fabian believes that carbon-neutral road transport is possible by 2050.
Intermodal transport as we move into the future.
Intermodal transport systems and the benefits that they can bring were highlighted by Olle Ankarling, head of logistics at Söderenergi. The company's system for transporting wood chip involves a combination of rail transport and HCT trucks. The trains arrive at the terminal in Nykvarn where the wood chip is loaded onto an HCT truck for the last 17 kilometres of its journey to the production facility in Södertälje.
"We're very pleased with the outcome of our trials and we're looking forward to using this system in future," said Olle Ankarling.
Söderenergi recycles wood waste and forest residues into fuel. It processes around 3 million cubic metres per year. Around half of this comes by ship to the company's own port and is transported on its own train in 27 wagons. It accepts forest waste from all over Sweden.
"The average distance travelled by the waste is a one-way journey of 450 kilometres. Rail transport is the ideal solution here, because a journey of over 300 kilometres is too far for a truck. We accept around two to three train loads per week. The train runs on renewable electricity so the system is very environmentally friendly," explained Olle Ankarling.
The terminal, which is open 24 hours a day, is where the wood chip is loaded onto trucks and it can store up to 60,000 tonnes of wood chip, which allows Söderenergi to accommodate fluctuations in demand caused by everything from the weather to the pandemic.
Horizontal cooperation produces good results
Another project was presented by Sara Thiel, business development manager at the city of Borås. Here the focus is on horizontal cooperation and companies collaborating to fill an HCT truck.
With the aim of making container transport more environmentally efficient, the city of Borås and companies at Viared logistics park have developed an open system based on daily shared loads and collaboration between several suppliers of goods and haulage companies. One of the factors that has made the project possible was that at the same time as the city of Borås was promoting the more efficient use of transport, Volvo Trucks was planning to trial new technologies and HCT solutions.
"Every aspect of the project contributes to improving environmental efficiency. This is an open system that is entirely commercial and market driven, where companies take joint responsibility for the volumes and share profits and losses," said Sara Thiel.
Every day the HCT truck starts out from the port in Gothenburg/Arendal, travels to Viared where it is unloaded and then makes its way to Volvo Buses in Borås to take freight to Gothenburg, so that it does not return empty.
"The system has been in operation since January this year and is transporting 20 containers a week. Because of the coronavirus crisis we no longer have any exports, but we were able to establish that the system worked well at the start of the year."
Sara highlighted the many positive outcomes of the project and explained that there are opportunities to increase its impact.
"We have reduced the number of journeys and can now transport around two to three times the volume of freight," said Sara.
"We are reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 34 percent and that's when we're only transporting imported goods. If we include exported products in the system, we can achieve a reduction of 50 percent."
At the same time, Sara emphasised the importance of open horizontal cooperation, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic which has had a major impact on some businesses and on the demand for goods.
"There are still some challenges to be overcome. For example we need to create incentives for companies to be more flexible about timing, because everyone wants to receive their containers in the morning. But in Borås we feel hugely positive about the HCT system and really want to scale it up," concluded Sara Thiel.