06 January 2000
Food haulage firms have been criticised for running lorries only half full and during peak times.
A report by Heriot-Watt University's logistics research centre found that, on average, only two-thirds of available height and three-quarters of floor space was used when packing lorries.
The report, Vehicle Utilisation and Energy Efficiency in the Food Supply Chain, which studied 36 fleets over a 48-hour period, also raised concern about the level of early morning vehicle activity. It noted that deliveries to shops and distribution centres rose steeply from 5am and peaked at 9am.
While lorries delivering to stores were constrained by opening times, the report said there was "less justification" for the high number of distribution centre deliveries during this period. Changing to later delivery times would "improve overall productivity", allow operators to increase vehicle loads and cut fuel use.
Vehicle use could also be improved, the survey said, as a lorry spent on average just 36 per cent of its day on the road. A total of 28 per cent of time was spent awaiting departure, loading and unloading, and 21 per cent empty and stationary. Time spent during the pre-load stage was driving up energy costs for operators of refrigerated vehicles.
A better use of vehicle capacity could result in less pollution and congestion, fewer accidents and lower operating costs, according to the report.