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Transport for tomorrow – why not change today?

ecoJersey | Published:

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WHEN something huge happens in the world that affects almost everyone, surely the sensible thing to do is observe and consider the implications it raises and presents to us.

Many of these implications cause problems and hardship but some offer us routes to think about how we think about, and why we do, certain things.

The transport industry is now completely integrated into our lives – so much so that we normally only notice it when it doesn’t work. Jersey, being an island, is completely dependent on the transport of goods and people in and out.

Although the world has been waking up to the environmental effects of how we live recently, how many have considered this locally?

The business I run rents equipment to, among other sectors, the construction industry. We operate four trucks to deliver and collect that equipment to our customers. I often wonder why we run four trucks. It was three but we added another this year because we are growing.

When thinking about those four trucks, I consider the impact they had when they were built, the impact when we run them, the impact of repairs… all of which have an effect on the environment.

Recently we have been looking at why we need all these trucks.

One of our main boasts is that we get items to customers when they want them. This leads to us being extremely busy at the start of each day and again at the end of each day when we collect the items that are finished with.

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To try to balance these busy times, we tried to introduce higher charges for delivery at the start of the day. That didn’t work. So, we have been using the recent restrictions to develop our planning and communication skills.

Why? Because if we can work with our customers to better plan their requirements – both in terms of when they want something and when they are going to finish with it – we can better plan transport. That way, we improve the efficiency of transport, maintenance, and people. Efficiency is the key. Efficient is elegant and elegant is efficient.

One of the main reasons for the environmental state of the planet is transport inefficiency. We are offered easier, speedier ways to receive goods, and we take them. Why not? Timescales have shrunk, and this applies to lead times, delivery times and replacement times. Businesses, both large and small, make good money from feeding our desire for transport gratification. But it is not an efficient use of resources.

Even in a small community such as Jersey, we can make important contributions to change. Our current restrictions have demonstrated the importance of planning ahead, highlighting both the fragility of the chain and the fact that we can live without getting everything fast.

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If we come out of the Covid-19 restrictions, and do not change the way in which we approach many, many things, we will have wasted the most important opportunity handed to the world for decades.

Local businesses can consider and plan new ways to manage the transportation of goods, and they can use alternative fuels to minimise immediate impacts. We have changed our delivery fleet’s fuel to HVO – a renewable diesel that works in all diesel vehicles and reduces the addition of extra carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by up to 90%.

It also reduces the harmful local pollutants in built-up areas – pollutants which will become even bigger news in years to come.

Alternatively, businesses can change to electric vehicles. But this really should be done as part of a planned renewal programme. Just dumping old for new without looking for efficiencies within current vehicles could be a poor choice.

Electricity is a great fuel for local transport. We have electricity available at a good price with a low environmental impact. The vehicles are easier and cheaper to run and maintain and, having far fewer oily bits, they last much longer. Batteries are a big topic of argument though. Difficult and expensive to make, both fiscally and environmentally, they really need to be worked to their full potential to balance their account. Commercial use can do this very well.

However, electric vans are very expensive. Larger vans and trucks are not readily available yet, no matter what the manufacturers say, and the costs are huge.

What we really need now is a balance. A balance between using the vehicles, the way we power these vehicles and systems we already have, and the demands of the consumers.

If businesses can convince customers to be that little bit more patient, a little more flexible, and to plan more, they could put in place much more efficient and elegant systems. This would massively reduce the environmental impact of our lives, both locally and globally, and it would also improve the bottom line for many businesses.

We invest huge amounts in equipment and systems to speed up transport when surely it would be more efficient to simplify and save both money and the earth’s resources by planning a little more.

Business has a huge role to play in changing the post-restriction world, but the greatest role comes from all of us. We really need to stop being consumers in the literal sense of the word and become customers of, and partners in, Planet Earth PLC.

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