Group of major shippers demands fast electrification of road freight

A group of shippers, retailers and road freight companies including Unilever, ABInBev, Nestle, Metro, Geodis, VosLogistics and GebruderWeiss have written a public letter calling on the EU to set a “binding sales target for vehicle-makers for zero-emission vans in 2025 and 2030” and “a binding sales target for vehicle makers for zero-emission urban and regional trucks in 2025 and 2030”. The letter, delivered on Wednesday (November 27, 2019) asserts that “ambitious and binding sales targets will accelerate the uptake of zero emission vehicles, make air in cities cleaner, put European vehicle makers at the forefront of innovation while at the same time making Europe less dependent on oil imports”. The companies complain that “the current supply in Europe is unfortunately nearly non-existent, forcing us to build our own vehicles or initiate own pilot projects.”

This follows on from the EU imposing a new set of regulations on trucks that intends to reduce CO2 emissions by 30% which were adopted earlier in the year.

The context of this is complex, however pressure on consumer facing companies to do something about global warming is perceived to be considerable. Nestle articulated a policy of achieving “zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050” in September in which it singled out road freight and warehousing as a key target for emissions reductions. Such shippers are also looking for ‘green’ solutions from logistics service providers, threatening to withdraw business if they don’t.

If even partially adopted the implications of the policies of yesterday’s letter would be very significant for the road freight sector. Many hauliers would be faced with the need to restructure their fleets, dividing them between internal combustion engine and some form of electric propulsion vehicles. Although the shift towards electric vehicles would be comparatively easier in areas such as light commercial vehicles for urban and last-mile delivery, it is unclear if the option of electric propulsion for larger vehicles on longer distance routes even exists.

Reading the latter carefully, it may be the case that the letter is the result of discussions between certain groups in the sector and the EU bureaucracy. There seems to be an emerging policy that regulation will focus on ‘urban’ road freight, which may be the easiest to electrify and with less emphasis on trunk-routes served by larger 20 to 40-ton vehicles. None-the-less it appears such policies would still have enormous effect on the road freight sector.

Source: Transport Intelligence, November 28, 2019

Author: Thomas Cullen