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Delivering the need for speed

For more than four decades, DHL has provided the logistical backbone that keeps the wheels of F1 turning – quite literally. Freight Industry Times sat down with Paul Fowler, Vice President of Motorsports Logistics at DHL Global Forwarding, the man co-ordinating the race behind the race.

In the energetic world of F1, where milliseconds can mean the difference between victory and defeat, speed and precision aren’t just buzzwords – they’re the lifeblood of the sport. According to Fowler,  DHL’s partnership with F1 thrives on shared values of “speed, precision, teamwork, and innovation – all pivotal for the success of both entities. At DHL, we don't just transport F1 ‘s freight; we own the race behind the race.”

For more than four decades, DHL and F1 have shared a journey. However, it wasn't until 2004 that DHL assumed the title of Official Logistics Partner of F1. As this year marks the 20th anniversary, DHL now stands as F1's longest-standing partner.

At the core of this partnership, says Fowler, lies DHL's commitment to efficiency and sustainability. By providing innovative logistics solutions, including environmentally friendly transport services, DHL plays a pivotal role in helping F1 reduce its ecological footprint. Together, they're working towards ambitious sustainability targets for the sport, aiming to achieve net zero emissions by 2030.

“Speed isn't just about what happens on the track; it's also about how we operate behind the scenes,” continues Fowler. “Through our logistics expertise, we're driving positive change and paving the way for a greener future.”

F1 isn't just a sport; it's a global phenomenon, captivating millions of fans with its blend of adrenaline-fueled action and larger-than-life personalities. The evolution of F1 from a handful of races to a record-breaking 24-event season has placed unprecedented demands on logistics. Every race weekend is a meticulously choreographed operation, requiring the co-ordination of a team of more than 100 motorsports logistics specialists, including 50 on-site personnel.

Up to 1,400 metric tons of equipment is transported for every F1 race

“Imagine conducting a symphony where every note must be played to perfection,” muses Fowler. “That's what it's like behind the scenes at F1. Every component, from race cars to spare parts, tyres, fuel, and hospitality equipment, must arrive precisely when and where they're needed.”

“With the precision of a maestro, DHL orchestrates the movement of up to 1,400 metric tons of equipment for each race. But what sets DHL apart is its commitment to sustainability, evident in its use of multimodal transport solutions. By seamlessly blending air, road, and ocean freight, DHL not only optimises efficiency but also minimises the environmental impact of F1 logistics.”

At the heart of DHL's prowess lies its expansive global network, spanning more than 220 countries and territories. This extensive reach ensures that no corner of the globe is beyond DHL's grasp, allowing for seamless coordination and delivery on a truly global scale.

Meeting the challenge of double and triple headers

While the allure of consecutive race weekends may be thrilling for fans, for the DHL Motorsports Logistics team, it's a logistical juggling act of epic proportions. Tight turnaround times, coordination across multiple locations, and unforeseen obstacles all contribute to the complexity. The pressure further intensifies when races involve time zone changes, such as the transition from West to East.

“Double and triple headers are the ultimate test of our capabilities,” admits Fowler. “We have just a few days to transport the equipment to the next race. We already start packing while the race is still ongoing on Sunday and must ensure that everything is delivered to the next location by the following Wednesday at the latest.”

Next comes location, a crucial factor in logistics. While some cities pose fewer challenges, others, like Monaco, are a mixed bag for the motorsports team. Despite its historical beauty, Monaco's narrow streets and restricted access create a distinctive challenge for the team to navigate.

Fowler recalls a particularly memorable moment when a delivery truck barely squeezed through the narrow streets, narrowly avoiding disaster. With only one safe area for heavy goods vehicles to enter the Paddock area of the circuit, seamless operations are imperative.

“The Monaco Grand Prix is like the FA Cup Final,” he says with a chuckle. “It's where we pull out all the stops to ensure everything runs like clockwork.”

Driving towards a greener future

In a world increasingly concerned with sustainability, DHL is leading the charge towards a greener future for motorsports logistics.

“Our commitment to sustainability extends beyond words,” declares Fowler. “We're taking tangible steps to reduce our carbon footprint while maintaining the speed and reliability that DHL is known for.”

Last year, DHL introduced a fleet of 18 biofuel-powered trucks for European races, marking a significant step towards reducing the carbon footprint of F1 logistics. This year, the company has taken its commitment to sustainability even further, more than doubling the fleet size to a total of 37 trucks.

DHL’s road fleet includes 37 biofuel powered trucks

What sets these trucks apart, says Fowler, is their use of HVO100 second-generation drop-in biofuel, slashing greenhouse gas emissions by an impressive average of 83 per cent per truck.

“This reduction not only demonstrates DHL's dedication to environmental stewardship, but also highlights the potential for biofuels to revolutionise the transportation industry.

“Perhaps what is even more impressive is the fact that these trucks deliver the same level of performance as their conventional diesel counterparts,” he adds.

Transporting the F1 Circus relies heavily on air freight

Air freight operations utilise Boeing 777s equipped with fuel-efficient technology, further reducing carbon emissions by 17 per cent compared to legacy aircraft. Meanwhile, ocean freight transportation primarily utilises sustainable fuels, effectively driving down greenhouse gas emissions even further.

DHL's commitment to sustainability also extends beyond its current efforts; the company is continuously exploring new technologies and innovations to reduce not only F1's environmental impact but also its own.

DHL was one of the first logistics companies to pledge to achieve zero emissions, aiming to reach net zero by 2050. To meet this goal, DHL plans to invest almost £6 billion by 2030 in climate-neutral logistics initiatives. This investment encompasses various strategies such as sustainable fuels, the expansion of the electric vehicle fleet, and the development of climate-neutral buildings.

“At the core of DHL's mission is a profound sense of responsibility and purpose to improve our green footprint,” explains Fowler. “We recognise the urgent need to address climate change and are committed to leaving a brighter, better future for generations to come.”

Looking to the future, the landscape is poised for a seismic shift, Fowler predicts, with eco-friendly practices set to become the norm, driven by a focus on renewable energy sources and optimised route planning to minimise environmental impact.

“We're entering a new era of logistics,” says Fowler. “With advancements in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), big data analytics, and AI-driven technologies, we'll be able to reduce our environmental impact and streamline operations like never before.”

SAF is a promising solution to reducing the carbon footprint of air freight, enabling a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent compared to conventional aviation fuel. The fuel itself is produced from waste sources, such as used cooking oil and food waste.

Fowler believes the integration of predictive analytics will fundamentally reshape key aspects of logistics operations, encompassing demand forecasting, inventory management, and route optimisation, as well as predictive maintenance and fatigue detection. By harnessing the power of data-driven insights, F1 logistics partners like DHL can ensure that every facet of the supply chain operates with unparalleled efficiency and precision.

Simultaneously, the proliferation of Internet of Things devices will enable real-time monitoring and management of sensitive cargo, ensuring optimal conditions and enhanced security throughout the transportation process.

“As F1 continues to push the boundaries of innovation, so too will DHL,” concludes Fowler. “Together, we're driving towards a future where speed, precision, and sustainability go hand in hand.”

The race to Silverstone

As the F1 season progresses, each race brings its own set of logistical challenges, none more demanding than the conclusion of the triple-header at the Silverstone circuit for the British Grand Prix.

Scheduled to take place 5-7 July 2024, this event requires meticulous planning and execution to ensure everything is in place by the preceding Wednesday.

Covering a staggering distance of more than 1,500 kilometres, the journey from Spielberg in Austria to Silverstone is a true test of speed, teamwork, and precision. With the freight transported by road, each truck will be manned by three drivers, strategically rotating near Calais, France, to ensure smooth and efficient delivery.

Brexit-related customs regulations add complexity to the British Grand Prix

The use of all 37 biofuel-powered trucks, with contributing to a reduction in carbon emissions by approximately 83 per cent, underscores the F1’s steadfast commitment to sustainability, alongside DHL’s dedication to eco-friendly logistics.

While the distance and rapid turnaround present obstacles, Brexit-related customs and regulations at Silverstone add a layer of complexity to the endeavour. Despite the hurdles the DHL motorsports logistics team remains steadfast in its commitment to delivering excellence.

“Triple headers always add an extra layer of excitement and challenge for DHL, but as they say, pressure makes diamonds!”, says Fowler, Vice President of Motorsports Logistics at DHL Global Forwarding. “While the journey from Spielberg to Silverstone is no cakewalk, we're well-prepared to navigate through any obstacles along the way.

“Considering that many F1 teams call the UK home, our logistics extend beyond Spielberg to also include shipments from UK car factories, adding to the thrill of seeing home teams compete on familiar turf."

This year's British Grand Prix also holds special significance as DHL will celebrate its 20th anniversary as F1’s Official Logistics Partner which is “a testament to their enduring partnership and dedication to the sport's continued success,” Fowler concludes.




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