Is Pollution Polluting the HGV Industry’s Image?

In recent months, there has been one issue at the forefront of the media attention on the HGV driving industry; vehicle emissions. Heavy Goods Vehicles, namely lorries and buses, are positioned by the media as the prominent (if not the sole) cause of the growing pollution problem across both the UK and Europe. Whilst such claims hold some stature – HGVs, due to their size and load weight do cause a higher level of emissions than other fuelled vehicles –  here at Barnes, we fear that the prevalence of news articles that paint HGV pollution in a negative manner is detrimental to the industry’s image despite their importance in a functioning, modern-day society. It seems that the news fails to appreciate the very real, consistent demand for road freight, from both businesses and the public alike, and how this in turn affects emission levels. As a result, we, as an industry, find ourselves caught in a catch 22 situation.

Over the past year, the level of emissions expelled from lorries has not only come to light, but also the ‘cheating’ of emissions has been publicised, whereby lorry drivers and/or freight companies utilise devices that are designed to stop the emissions measuring system from working correctly. To tackle both these problems, numerous methods of resolution have been proposed, from roadside checks, to new levy tax Laws and ‘smart’ traffic lights. Whilst we do not condone neither high emissions level nor the cheating of emissions declaration, we hope that this blog will highlight the knock-on effect of such reports on the freight sector. As a company directly involved with heavy goods vehicles, we see very little effort exerted into maintaining a positive media image of freight transport. To explore why this may be, we firstly need to consider whether the claims on emissions are factual.

Like many others who operate within the transport industry, here at Barnes, we appreciate that given their dimensions, HGVs do release significantly more emissions than their transport counterparts and this is seemingly evidenced with shocking statistics; Reuters report that 65% – 70% of all EU emissions are caused by HGVs. In the UK, the Government claims that lorries produce approximately 20% of emissions of the UK, however, leading industry body, the Road Haulage Association, has challenged such reports with research that finds that lorries and buses to actually only account for 7.6% of NOx emissions – quite a difference in figures. Regardless of the correct figures, the percentage of emissions is too high, and all in the transport industry should commit to reducing these levels immediately to preserve our planet. We’ve brought this to our reader’s attention before in a previous blog, and whilst we still call for action on emission reducing methods, we also ask for clarity for industry operators; this is key in order to correctly tackle the issue at hand. Perhaps if accurate information was clear and readily available, hauliers could make the necessary changes sooner, which in turn, may reduce the negative press.

For all the negative press, there comes a forgotten, but vital, piece of information. The FTA’s Head of UK Policy, Christopher Snelling aptly frames it; “HGVs are an integral part of the economy at both national, regional and local level. Currently, there are no commercially or operationally viable alternatives to diesel in terms of HGV motive power.”

As such, the Road Haulage Association has asked that the Government ‘slows down’ the implementation of emission combat schemes, as currently, it appears that the schemes simply aim to ‘tax lorries out of towns and cities’. By allowing a longer time period of compliance – for many ‘compliance’ refers to the adoption of cleaner trucks – hauliers could allow for relevant charges to be paid whilst also minimising costs on businesses who rely on the vehicles. The turn-around time, the RHA claims, is not flexible enough.

Yet there remains a demand for deliveries within a specific time-frame. Increasing pressure grows for firms to provide a ‘same-day’ delivery service, if not, at the very least a ‘next-day’ delivery option, but are such services sustainable, particularly if hauliers have to replace or modify existing vehicles to comply with results? And if turn-around time is negatively impacted, how will this reflect on the industry in the eyes of the public?

Here at Barnes, we believe that more needs to be done to tackle lorry emissions and those who are cheating emissions. However, we equally feel that more should be done to reshape the perception of the HGV industry and their contribution to emissions; it is a public-serving sector that in recent years has grown considerably and for many, has become a necessity. Therefore, we have become trapped in a catch 22 situation, and in order to comply with emission standards, greater flexibility needs to be provided so not to affect the supply chain of key consumer purchases.

So, we ask, is pollution polluting the HGV industry’s image? Let us know what steps you think need to be taken in order to tackle the emissions crisis by dropping us a tweet.