What’s next for UK freight?

Political uncertainty, changing legislation and regulation, and evolving technologies are all increasing the pressures on freight transport organisations to operate and compete effectively. In response, AECOM’s Freight and Logistics experts have analysed the latest key data, trends and issues, generating insight to help the industry navigate the challenges ahead.

The freight transport sector is vital to the success of the UK economy, with tonnes of goods transported thousands of miles a day to meet customer demand. At the same time, our roads are becoming busier, with the rise of e-commerce increasing commercial vehicle traffic, and the industry must respond to tough but essential, environmental targets, changing safety and transport regulations, and the costs and effects of the UK’s shifting relationship with the European Union.

AECOM’s first annual Freight Matters report brings together the latest, and most critical, high-level industry data for road, rail, water and air freight transport from a range of credible sources, as well as analysing the industry’s most pressing challenges and discussing some of the innovative solutions developed to address them.

The report is of value to those working in the freight industry, involved in freight activity and/or interested in the sector’s growing contribution to the UK economy. It can be used to help inform decision-making, policies and projects, with expert insight from AECOM’s Freight and Logistics specialists on key topics, such as:

Improving air quality

In recent years, local authorities in the UK have been focused on mitigating air pollution in cities caused by excessive congestion, aiming to reduce its impact on human health. It was estimated that 23 local authorities would reach illegal pollution levels by 2021 if no action was taken. To achieve cleaner cities, several local authorities, including Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton, have considered the implementation of Low Emission Zones (LEZ) and Clean Air Zones (CAZ).

There is evidence that the introduction of LEZs and CAZs significantly reduce emissions in the affected areas and surrounding boundaries. Both initiatives are reactive responses to combat poor air quality, however, and can lead to the most polluting freight and servicing vehicles being pushed to outside the boundaries — in turn, adversely impacting air quality outside the zones.

In Freight Matters, AECOM Principal Consultant, Raj Sharma assesses the effectiveness of LEZ and CAZ, and other solutions to help improve air quality.

Tackling the impact of the UK’s exit from the EU

The UK transport sector’s future relationship with the EU remains uncertain, despite the British Government being keen to keep EU transport operators’ rights and advantages. Aligning on safety, security and regulation will be key, through a combination of bi-lateral agreements or as part of a wider free-trade deal.

Coupled with additional arrangements around driving licences, trailer registration and potentially the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC), a No-Deal scenario adds significant difficulty to an already heavily regulated sector. This is in addition to emerging challenges around borders, customs/security declarations, driver resourcing and traffic management.

Principal Consultant, Daniel Bowden writes on these challenges and the UK freight sector’s ability, as a flexible, resilient and responsive industry to overcome them.

Working more safely

Safety is a key factor in the road freight sector, and fleets’ safety credentials are often used as a key differentiator. Alongside fleet operators working hard to ensure their drivers have the correct skills and training for the vehicles they drive, driver fatigue is a serious safety issue receiving increased focus.

New requirements and schemes in London and across the UK are demanding HGVs have specific safety equipment to eliminate blind spots and, overall, improve the driver’s scope of direct vision. The aim is to minimise the risks that these vehicles hold when encountering vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians.

Associate Director, Paul Wilkes looks at these issues in more depth and highlights solutions being deployed in response.

Harnessing the power of new technology

Technology is changing the way society lives and works, with impacts across the whole supply chain. This includes transforming communication and data, fleet management, operational efficiency and the transport modes we use.

Discussing, among other innovations, sensors that record aggressive or poor driving behaviours and on-board cameras to capture the driver’s eye view, Professor Geoff Clarke provides an overview of the latest technologies set to transform and benefit the freight transport sector now and, in the years, ahead.

Download the full Freight Matters report now to find out more.