Meat Movement
Published:  05 August, 2011

Rising fuel costs and carbon footprint reduction remain key concerns – and drivers of innovation – for logistics providers servicing the meat industry in 2011.

Road safety and cutting back on red tape are becoming increasingly important, meanwhile, as the government considers proposals to extend both permitted trailer lengths and the hours of operation for commercial deliveries. 


At the same time, as moves by the European Commission (EC) to curb trailer heights (see below) emerge, the Department for Transport (DfT) is consulting on plans to extend the maximum length permitted for semi-trailers. According to the DfT, the move could increase capacity by 13% and cut carbon emissions by 100,000t a year.

The proposal would extend the current limit of 13.6m by a further 2.05m, creating an 18.75m tractor unit-plus-trailer or ‘super-truck’, but the weight limit would not increase beyond the current 44t. The additional space would equate to an increase in capacity from 26 to 30 pallets, and from 45 to 54 standard retail cages, and extend opportunities for shared deliveries.

However, opponents of the ‘super-truck’ proposal have raised concerns over road safety, while questioning the green credentials of putting larger vehicles on the road, when many are said to be driving around empty.

Lowering height

The EC is looking to lower the permitted trailer height under regulations specifying the trailer mass and dimensions required to comply with safety and environmental standards.

Following lobbying by the UK sector, the EC revised its trailer height limitation upwards to 4.88m for double-deck trailers, but the Freight Transport Association (FTA) is pushing for 4.95m – the height of many retail and particularly bakery delivery vehicles currently operating in the UK.

“All the evidence points to the fact that many significant operators in the UK use trailers that would be outlawed if EC proposals went ahead,” says Andy Mair, FTA head of engineering policy. “The cost-saving and CO2 benefits of higher trailers would be lost too.”

Adopting the 4.88m restriction would prevent ‘double-stacking’, result in one stillage (caged pallet) per stack less, and have an impact on factory automated stacking systems operating to load 4.95m double-deck trailers with no headroom to spare.

Cutting red tape

In June, the FTA responded to the Government’s Red Tape Challenge – aimed at reducing unnecessary bureaucracy – by identifying key opportunities as including: the removal of mobile workers from the Working Time Directive; cutting the age limit for vocational drivers to 17; and mitigation of the London Lorry Control Scheme to allow quieter night deliveries.

Quiet Delivery Demonstration Scheme trials were recently successfully held over six grocery stores across England, and have been advocated by transport minister Mike Penning and a number of suppliers as offering economic and road safety benefits.

Rising fuel costs

A record high of 143.04p per litre for the diesel national average was reached in the UK on 5 May, according to Petrolprices.com and, in July, representatives of the FairFuelUK campaign, including Harlow MP Robert Halfon, the Road Haulage Association and the FTA, delivered a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron at No 10 Downing Street.

The letter outlines proposals for an inquiry into why pump prices do not fall when the price of oil decreases, and rejecting the inflationary duty rise planned for January 2012 – and likely to add 4p per litre to the price of fuel.

“High fuel taxes aren’t working,” reads the letter. “Not only are our road freight industries being crushed, but foreign road freight operators continue to expand their operations in the UK at the expense of domestic hauliers, as their rates of duty are up to 24p per litre less than their British counterparts.”
The FTA’s Manager’s Guide to Distribution Costs 2011 calculated the cost of diesel for commercial vehicle fleets as having risen by 15.6% in the 12 months to April 2011.

Carbon footprint

Reducing transport miles is one of five targets included in the Five-fold Environmental Ambition laid out by the Food and Drink Federation in 2007 and updated in December 2010, alongside reducing carbon, waste to landfill, packaging and water.

Logistics are estimated to account for around a third of total UK greenhouse gas emissions, which are subject to an 80% reduction target over 1990 to 2050. Maximum emissions standards for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) have been established by the EC, and C02 emissions from HGVs have remained stable since 1995, despite sustained economic growth, according to the FTA.

Logistics companies are increasingly investing in low-carbon vehicles and alternative fuels, using telematics to reduce carbon emissions and cut fuel costs, and sharing loads. Meanwhile, rail freight has increased by 40% since the early 1990s, with a freight train reducing emissions equivalent to 48 lorries.

The FTA operates a Logistics Carbon Reduction Scheme to help companies record and report their progress on carbon reduction, and improve and share best-practice.

Driver hours

Driver working hours represent another issue of contention, and the FTA has welcomed new EC tachograph proposals as more driver-friendly, through reducing both unintended driver hours errors and fraud. “This is great news for the vast majority of UK operators, which operate to the highest levels of legal compliance and safety, and it will reduce the need for manual recordings and unnecessary roadside checks for compliant drivers,” said Chris Yarsley, FTA manager of road freight, enforcement and EU affairs.

Animal welfare

Transporting animals, meanwhile, attracts concerns over not just the carbon footprint involved, but also the welfare of livestock in transit and biosecurity.

In May, animal welfare charity Eurogroup for Animals called again for the EC to adopt a more stringent approach to biosecurity during live transport in its forthcoming new Animal Welfare Strategy and animal health regulations, to help prevent further disease outbreaks.

Earlier in the year, the European Food Safety  Authority (EFSA) issued a series of recommendations aimed at alleviating animal suffering during transit, including slaughtering more animals nearer to production, and transporting either semen and embryos or carcases rather than livestock.

EFSA’s Scientific Opinion also extended to strategies for reducing livestock numbers and journey times, preparation and monitoring of animals and correct conditions, such as temperature, to be applied in transit.

Davie Malcolm Transport

A new depot in Dumfries and the addition of the first of three Euro Rails from Gray & Adams to transport beef and import pigs are among recent developments for Davie Malcolm Transport, which transports fresh and frozen food across Europe.

The new depot complements a main base two miles from the Channel Tunnel at Folkestone. “Both sites offer high security and good driver changeover facilities allowing seamless movement of consignments across the channel while complying with driver hours rules,” says ‘Big’ Davie Malcolm, whose son also works in the business.

“Gray & Adams build most of our trailers to our own designs, including electronic suspension for driver safety and less meat rub,” he says. “Trailers have an internal height of 2.55m to allow good airflow and ease of loading, allowing an average of 1,200 lambs per load, depending on weight.”

All of the fleet’s refrigerated trailers feature Furgocar double-hook rail systems of high-grade stainless steel. “We pride ourselves on supplying trucks and drivers of the highest calibre on time,” says Malcolm. “All our trucks and trailers have satellite tracking which sends all data back to our management systems in the office allowing full cost, temperature and time analysis.”

Just launched in Brussels and available in the UK from the end of the year, Mercedes-Benz has introduced a new Actros premium long-distance truck.

Updating its predecessor, which sold over 700,000 units, the new Actros was developed under Mercedes-Benz’s ‘Trucks you can trust’ premise; subject to 2,600 hours of fine-tuning in the wind tunnel, 50m kilometres of engine testing on test rigs and 20m kilometres on the road in real-life operation.
The new Actros’ modular system includes seven spacious cab options, of which five have a flat floor; separation of working and living areas; a functional and attractive cockpit; a new, high-torque, clean and economical six-cylinder in-line engine; a new frame and dynamic chassis; and further enhanced safety features.

The new Actros also lays claim as the first and, to date, only truck to have been developed to comply with the Euro VI emissions standard, with the Euro V and Euro VI variants offering fuel consumption lower than the predecessor model by 6% and 3% respectively. Further, AdBlue consumption is reduced by around 40% and maintenance and repair costs are lower.

For deliveries at the smaller end of the scale, Mercedes-Benz has just launched the E-CELL, an electric version of its Vito panel van, which is free from road tax and the congestion charge. “Electric mobility is the future and we are delighted to be the first automotive manufacturer to produce an ‘off-the-shelf’ electric van,” says Steve Bridge, Mercedes-Benz UK van sales and marketing director.

Now available to lease direct from the manufacturer, the Vito E-CELL runs using 16 lithium-ion battery modules with a combined capacity of 36 kWh. It has a maximum range of 130km (80 miles) on a single six-hour charge from a 380/400 volt input, while the top speed is limited to 80 km/h (50 mph/h).

Trailer Vision
With increasing rigorous health and safety requirements in mind, Trailer Vision offers digital wireless vehicle reversing camera/CCTV systems for use across vehicle types.

“Such systems are predominantly used to either meet health and safety requirements or to reduce ever-increasing accident costs,” says Neil Todd of Trailer Vision. “Additionally, systems can be utilised to reduce driver/operator workload, such as by making hitching a trailer or draw-bar quicker and easier or to keep an eye on an important load.”

Updating older wired or analogue wireless systems, digital wireless systems were introduced by Trailer Vision in 2009 to combat interference from other wireless networks and Bluetooth phones. “Although a little more expensive, digital has rapidly replaced the older analogue technology, due to significant improvements in performance and, in 2011, we expect 100% of new sales to be digital,” says Todd. “Digital wireless ensures no interference and ensures that systems can be fitted guaranteed.”