The track is being prepared – the shoe-laces are being tied – the climate fight in transport!

Date: 19, February 2016
If you believe in beginnings, February 16th may have been the real start of what promises to be a dramatic struggle regarding transport and climate policy in the EU the coming 6-12 months. At the annual conference of ACEA – the truck and car manufacturer association for Europe – the message was quite clear: as OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer) we can only deliver so much in CO2 reduction – the rest will have to come from policy makers, local authorities, the road transport industry, transport buyers and others.

The message is not untrue: together in an integrated approach all these operators and interests have the capabilities – in theory – of delivering significant reductions of CO2. This is demonstrated in the recent study carried out for ACEA.

What was surprising was the way of delivery: It seemed that the manufacturers/OEMs focused on all the rest of us and what we were supposed to deliver, rather than tell us the impressive improvements they have made and will make in the future.
 
The desktop analysis is quite clear. Significant reductions can be delivered from better tires, better road surface, better logistics, better driving, better fuel quality and better planning to take a few examples. Reductions from new vehicle and equipment is just one part of this – albeit significant.
 
I doubt that any road transport operator is not aware of this. However, only a number of decisions are within the reach and power of road transport operators, and most significantly these are reduced mainly to choice of new vehicle and equipment, management/training of staff. The other elements are beyond the decision of an operator and lie with the decision makers, politicians and decisions in other industries.
 
CO2-emission suboptimal decisions are made every day, because the decision matrix of transport buyers is more complicated than just CO2 and transport. As road transport is getting cheaper – partly due to cabotage, partly due to social dumping, partly due to efficiency – the incentive for transport buyers to give priority to CO2 reduction is also decreasing.
 
The result is that CO2 – which is already only one of many factors in the decision matrix - is moving down the decision priority list — and there is regrettably little the road transport operator can do about this except to invest in more efficient equipment and better drivers. However, this requires resources, which is often not the case for several SME – or even micro - sized Scandinavian truck or European companies.

The end result is that in fact the truck manufacturers are quite important for the development. They are a driving force – whether they like it or not. I honestly believe that also the manufacturers believe in a profitable future based on low or zero CO2 emission vehicles.
 
Of the many ways of reducing CO2, they have one common element: they cost money – some cost a lot. Some of them will be financed directly by the operators. Others will have to be financed by public authorities at national or local level. None of them will be free. A thorough assessment of costs and benefits should be undertaken rather than point fingers at who will be footing the bill. Efficiency is key – also when it relates to financing investments in CO2 reductions.
 
So you start seeing why the battle can be bloody. Manufacturers do not want to be forced to make investments that are neither efficient nor long-term. Authorities shy away from spending money they do not have. Operators make long term investments and have limited flexibility in taking action between the investment cycles.
 
The result is easily a fight of all against all! Let’s hope common sense prevails before havoc breaks out. We all have common goals and objectives. In the coming months there will be plenty of opportunities to dive into our trenches. This will help no one. 
 
Representatives of the many parts of the transport industry will only get the best solutions by standing together. Thus, the positive takeaway from the ACEA conference is that acknowledging a diverse range of responsibility was clear to most participants. It remains to be seen who is willing to make their own sacrifices.