Greening logistics


Soaring fuel prices, together with growing road congestion and increasingly stringent EU legislation, are forcing freight and delivery services to rethink their transportation strategies so as to save money on fuel and limit their environmental impact.

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The logistics sector (planning, organisation and execution of transport operations) is growing rapidly, in parallel with roughly 31% freight transport growth between 1995 and 2005. As the volume of world trade rises, the European Commission predicts a further 50% increase by 2020. Many companies rely heavily on planes, trains and ships or on fleets of cars, trucks and vans to run their businesses. Postal operators and express services, for example, often represent the largest vehicle fleets in a country and are particularly reliant on speedy, low-cost solutions. 

But the logistics sector faces a number of challenges. Globalisation  means supply chains have become longer and more complex, while increasing traffic congestion and soaring fuel prices are weighing down on the sector's competitiveness. 

At the same time, studies show that transportation and logistics can account for up to 75% of a business's carbon footprint. And, amid growing concerns about air pollution, CO2 emissions and global warming, the sector cannot escape from the vast number of measures being put into place at EU level to 'green' transport and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

For companies, the greening of logistics not only has an environmental dimension, but is also a question of efficiency. Indeed, logistics are estimated to account for 10-15% of the final cost of finished products and businesses are increasingly seeking to cut costs by reducing fuel consumption and time spent in queues. 

Currently, six member states account for two thirds of total EU-27 freight: Germany (517 billion tonne-kilometres or tkm), France (283 billion tkm), Spain (264 billion tkm), Italy (256 billion tkm), Poland (billion tkm) and the United Kingdom (206 billion tkm).