Cycling along the wide paths bordering the clean streets of Rotterdam (NL) on an average day, one can feel the dynamism and the energy of the city that has started a new day. While life goes on as always, many things happen throughout the city that almost go unnoticed. An electrician has just stepped out of his van to get something fixed at a municipal building; it’s his first task for the day. A team of construction workers is waiting for some material to be delivered on the site they’ve been working on for weeks. These and other activities have something in common: they all rely on some sort of transportation services. Their existence is crucial to the functioning of a city like Rotterdam. Finding ways to make them happen with the least possible harm to the environment is a challenge. A challenge that the city of Rotterdam decided to take on by exploiting the procurement leverage, with a little help from the European Union and a project called BuyZET. Giacomo Lozzi and Francesco Ripa write about this project.
At first, Rotterdam started to study in detail the activities and movements that the municipality’s needs were producing. How many trucks and vans move around the city to fulfill our needs? What kind of goods and services do they provide? What’s the CO2 footprint of these transport services, and how can we use our influence as customers to reduce it?
The project found that over 95 percent of total emissions were due to the transportation of construction materials. In Rotterdam, just as in many other cities across Europe, roads need to be maintained and new schools need to be built. The city found that heavy-duty trucks travel around 300,000 km a year in the city to deliver construction materials – mostly sand – to these sites.
How many trucks and vans move around the city to fulfill our needs? What kind of goods and services do they provide? What’s the CO2 footprint of these transport services, and how can we use our influence as customers to reduce it? What could the city do to keep the construction sites running but polluting much less? Asking all truck operators to suddenly switch to electric is unrealistic. The development of zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles is not mature enough yet. So instead of setting strict requirements, Rotterdam decided to adopt a more open – or “promotional” – approach based on award criteria.
They decided to focus on the very last bit of the deliveries – the “last mile” connecting the industrial facility to the construction site. The minimum requirements, which apply to the vehicles used within the contract, impose the emission thresholds of the Rotterdam Low Emission Zone (LEZ), which will be transformed into a Zero Emission Zone by 2025.
The city designed award criteria requiring suppliers to put forward a vision for zero-emission transportation for each service contract. This approach was conceived to elicit interesting and innovative ideas from the operators of a highly challenging procurement category. Rotterdam successfully tested this approach in a tender for the supply of bricks.
One of the things that the city learned during this experiment is that suppliers are very open to learning more about the existing possibilities for zero-emission vehicles. Another learning was that local authorities should carefully consider the barriers and costs that suppliers may face in adopting such vehicles.
Six BuyZET tips on different procurement approaches:
- Use award criteria and fleet certification schemes to give preference to zero-emission vehicles.
- Establish minimum requirements that are realistic and can be met not immediately, but by the end of the contract.
- You can require deliveries to be made through a consolidation center!
- Require transport monitoring data to be collected and shared by suppliers.
- Increase contract length – to allow vehicle investments.
- Separate contracts into geographical lots to minimize trips across the city.