An estimated half a million kilometres are ridden by cyclists in London every day. Over the course of a year, and given current growth rates, that is heading for 500 million kilometres a year.
Commercial vehicles (trucks and vans) account for about five billion kilometres a year, that’s 10 times as much. Yet the Mayor of London has a dedicated Cycling Commissioner who is devoted to promoting the needs of cyclists and cycling as a vital part of London life. Transport for London, meanwhile, has disbanded its dedicated freight team.
Freight operators struggling to make daily deliveries to residents and businesses in London have long felt short-changed by the political establishment in London, as if the contribution they make to London life is ignored in the inevitably fierce competition for scarce funds and even scarcer road space. Too often freight is seen as the ‘bad guy’ in the London movie.
This has resulted in the slow but relentless super-regulation of freight in London. No longer is it sufficient to meet the requirements of national and European law, vehicles entering London must additionally meet requirements for exhaust emissions, driver training and side protection. These are soon to be joined by requirements for direct line of sight for drivers from the cab – the Direct Vision Standard.
Not many FTA members disagree that London traffic presents more complex risks and hazards than are provided for in the national and EU requirements. What they object to is the lack of serious collaboration by TfL with fleet operators to work out the best means of mitigating them. And given the simultaneous arrival of new technologies for vehicle and driving automation over the next few years, the opportunities to deliver meaningful change are being missed because of a failure to join the dots and to provide vision and leadership for freight deliveries, rather than just regulation and punishment.
A mediation role between the forces of governance, technology and fleet asset management could form the job description of a new Freight Commissioner for London. Their experience and knowledge of freight would allow them to provide insight and advice for the Mayor that recognises the conflicting demand for road space in the capital but also accepts that simply regulating freight out of the way is merely adding to the already inflated costs of living, trading and working in London.
Add to the role profile the task of championing the re-timing of deliveries, the development of quieter as well as less polluting vehicles, maximising the scope for transhipment and load consolidation as well as the use of non-motorised vehicles for last mile deliveries to individuals and small businesses and you have an ambassador for improvement every bit as worthy and politically credible as the Walking and Cycling Commissioner. The contribution that freight operators make to London life through their relentless efforts to deliver the goods despite the odds justifies that their contribution and responsibilities should be taken a lot more seriously than they currently are. Bring on the Champion for Freight in London. Their appointment is long overdue.
Posted on: February 6th 2018