09 March 2000 | Elizabeth Bellamy
British road freight operators are still running short of capacity, with only one in six lorries full on return journeys, writes Elizabeth Bellamy.
The Report on Freight survey from logistics operator Lex Transfleet found that, although 80 per cent of truck fleet managers said their vehicles were no less than 71 per cent full on outward journeys, only 39 per cent of trucks are more than half full on their return. And nearly one quarter carry no load at all on these trips.
The results confirm the findings of a 1998 Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions report, Benchmarking Vehicle Utilisation and Energy Consumption, which stated there was "room for improvement" in empty-load running. This was a significant contributor to traffic congestion and pollution, said a department spokesperson at the time.
But firms were not empty running out of choice, said a spokeswoman for industry group the Road Haulage Association. The situation was more common where logistics providers were under exclusive contracts with large companies and could not combine return loads, she said. "It's usually a case of you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours," she added.
The study, which questioned 213 UK fleet managers and 1,563 customers, also found that one-third of managers were very concerned by restrictions on the movement of trucks in urban areas during certain times. But almost half the customers said they would support more night-time deliveries if it reduced congestion during the day.