Sustainable container road transport: where's the limit?

Transport and sustainability seem to be an strange combination. During goods transport, a lot of fossil fuels are burned, resulting in the emission of CO2 and particulates. Fortunately, there are a lot of initiatives to make transport more sustainable. This blog focuses on initiatives for road transport. We also look at the feasibility thereof for our branch of industry, namely long-distance container transport. How sustainable can we get in the next few years?


Various sustainable initiatives for road transport have already been developed, such as the introduction of the Euro6 standard, the addition of AdBlue, electric trucks and the development of new fuels. On 1 January 2014, the Euro6 standard came into effect, a good development that has strongly reduced the emissions of hazardous substances: particulates 36 times less than Euro I; nitrogen 20 times less than Euro I. Since a number of years, trucks have been adding AdBlue to further reduce nitrogen emissions*.

Electric trucks

Electric trucks have arrived. Unfortunately, they're very expensive and they have a range of only 100 km. That's fine for city distribution** but not for international container transport with a heavy cargo. Another factor is that these city trucks are very visible to urban residents and they're a lot quieter too. In terms of image, store chains can fully benefit from the sustainable nature of the transport they have purchased. This is good for the consumer's awareness and it means that it would be possible to account for the store chain applying a higher price level.


Benefiting from a sustainable image

It's different for international container transport. First of all, a trip can be as far as 500 or 600 km and sometimes even 1200 km (read more about our destinations). That wouldn't be feasible with an electric truck. It's too expensive and too much time would be lost on recharging the batteries. Furthermore, international container transport is anonymous to a high degree. You can't tell by the truck's outside if it's carrying a load of metal for further processing in a factory, or a large number of brand phones on their way to a distribution centre. The loading and unloading locations are away from the consumer's eyes, in ports and at depots and terminals. There's hardly anyone to directly profit from the image benefits of cleaner transport in this sub-market. Also, hauliers aren't brand names with any relevance for consumers. These days, international container transport comes at the bottom of the list, it has to be done as fast and inexpensive as possible in a relatively anonymous industrial world.


LNG, HVO, CNG and GTL

New fuels. There are quite a lot of them now, LNG, Bio LNG, HVO and GTL. That's a positive development, because to some extent, they're all (slightly) less polluting than diesel. However, availability is still too poor to be able to refuel all along the route. You don't want to have to be driving ten or twenty kilometres to fuel up. These fuels also take up more space, the energy of a litre of diesel still demands 1.7 litres of LNG space***. On the other hand, it looks you need 10 to 15% less fuel but prices in the current market are still a big problem. After all, the initial investment in an LNG truck is high and the international transport market is uncertain.


How sustainable can we get? As long as industrial container transport by road is at the bottom of the list of many budgets, innovation prompted by the sector itself will be slow. Still, there are some promising developments, such as the new fuels. They may well prove interesting in a number of years and with an improved distribution network. Still, we expect it will require European legislation to improve sustainability in this market, a market that currently doesn't offer enough opportunities to profit from 'green image benefits'.


With this blog, SKB Logistics hopes to be able to contribute to awareness of the future of international industrial transport. Do you wish to receive a quote for your transport? Call us at +31 85 111 7655 or fill in our request form. You can also send an email to info@skblogistics.nl.


* Source: Greenchem

** Source: transport and the envirornment

*** Source: Logistiek.nl