When the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management pulled the plug on the Super Eco Combi (SEC) in May 2022, it seemed to be the end for extra-long trucks in the Netherlands. While an increasing number of European countries, such as Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and Spain, chose the SEC as a sustainable option. The Dutch Top Sector Logistics concludes, “The Super EcoCombi provides opportunities to achieve further efficiency gains and sustainable logistics in road transport.
At the time, the physical infrastructure and road safety risks were considered too big to start a pilot with the SEC. Now the SEC is getting another chance with a pilot at Ewals Cargo Care. The door seems to be open again. And rightly so. The Super Eco Combi is the perfect first-mile for the city logistics last-mile.
Industrial companies are rapidly adapting to climate goals with less energy use by shortening chains, different production methods, and reducing waste in agri-food. Yet the logistics sector lags behind; the industry is driving more miles and building more XXXL warehouses. The logistics sector should not only focus on electric vehicles, clean biofuels, or solar panels on the roof but on much less energy use.
Almost half of all CO2 emissions from freight transport (about 5 Mgton per year in the Netherlands) are caused by trucks and truck-trailers, and just over a third by vans. The remaining emissions (almost 20%) come from inland barges. Rail transport emissions are very small. Of the miles companies drive in road transport, they drive most on long and medium distances.
Decoupling first-mile and last-mile
At least 80% of CO2 emissions are on international trips, long distances within the Netherlands, and trips to urban areas. This is where the big sustainability gains can be made. However, 80% of the drivers’ time is spent in city logistics. They are a few kilometers, but they don’t drive fast and stand still often.
That last-mile is difficult to plan; city traffic is unpredictable, and customers are increasingly demanding. Planners take this into account to be at the customer’s place at the agreed (window) time. There is forty to fifty percent slack in urban delivery scheduling. That is not a good thing with the driver shortages in Europe.
Moreover, cities are coming up with more requirements for incoming trucks; weight and length restrictions, traffic safety and blind spots, window times, local permits to deliver in car-free neighborhoods, and zero-emission zones.
With modern city logistics hubs and SEC, companies kill two birds with one stone. They can better serve their demanding urban customers. And they respond to the driver shortage, the need for less truck traffic, introducing electric trucks, bundling goods flows upstream, and much lower CO2 emissions.
The hubs can be supplied with full trucks 24/7 (including off-peak hours). Then you can use people and trucks optimally. SEC could be a good solution for the corridors for construction logistics, the parcel market, and food distribution. Because you can carry more freight, you quickly save 30% CO2. That’s good for our planet. And with more freight in a truck, investing in electric trucks also pays off sooner. Then you eventually recoup the extra costs of the city logistics hub.
Needless to say, the pilot at Ewals Cargo Care will be a success. The SEC is the perfect first-mile for the city logistics last-mile; sustainable and affordable.
Walther Ploos van Amstel.