Making urban freight transport more efficient

ERTICO – ITS Europe's Henry Wasung looks at a pilot focusing on reducing energy consumption of goods delivery vehicles in urban areas

As your intrepid reporter writes this piece, he may on occasion cast his gaze out of the window and towards the queue of frustrated motorists outside, all trying to pass the double parked lorry delivering supplies to the local supermarket. And yet it’s not all the lorry driver’s fault – he wouldn’t have double parked had not somebody parked a car in the delivery bay… The chaos is compounded by the traffic lights on the nearby junction, which unaccountably make no allowances for the bottleneck… Conveying a sense of world weary déjà vu, your reporter turns his attention back to his article.
A common enough occurrence and certainly one that is no surprise to the readers of Transport Business International. Indeed, much work has gone into researching ways to avoid and mitigate such scenarios, yet the problem remains and has far-reaching repercussions. The reality of cities in Europe and beyond is the familiar litany of ever-increasing congestion and pollution, with all the attendant negative societal and economic effects. And there have been any number of European and national projects addressing those same issues – where are the results?
With the FREILOT Project, according to Zeljko Jeftic, Project Coordinator at ERTICO – ITS Europe. At least in part – “We have reached the stage where the technology to mitigate the negative externalities of urban transport exists. Now the task is to take the technology, focus on segments of the challenge, and find the best ways to address them.”
The FREILOT Project, launched in April 2009 with a budget of €4 million, has as its aim to demonstrate measurable and quantifiable increase in fuel efficiency of road goods transport in urban areas through a holistic treatment of traffic management, fleet management, the delivery vehicle and driver. Using close-to-market technology and building on the work of previous projects such as CVIS, FREILOT focuses on the realistic goal of improving the efficiency of urban freight transport, having identified this market segment as a prime target
“The tight margins and competitiveness of the urban freight sector means that industry stakeholders will be eager to implement a technology solution which will lower their energy costs and pollution, increase driver/vehicle efficiency and increase delivery reliability”, underlines Zeljko Jeftic.

The right approach
Improving urban freight efficiency depends on several parameters, and the FREILOT project uses an integrated and targeted approach, seeking limited and realistic improvements in each of its elements which together will add up to up to a 25 per cent reduction in fuel consumption. The FREILOT package is being demonstrated, in real life conditions, in four European cities – Bilbao (Spain), Helmond (The Netherlands), Krakow (Poland) and Lyon (France) – for a period of 12 months.
The four elements of the FREILOT scheme are: traffic management (optimising energy efficiency); vehicle adaption (acceleration limiter and adaptive speed limiter); driver adaption (enhanced “green driving” support); and fleet management (real-time loading/delivery space booking).
The idea behind FREILOT is straightforward: cities allow FREILOT-compliant lorries priority access through certain urban junctions and dynamic real-time booking of delivery bays, thus encouraging the take-up of the FREILOT package. Further benefits accrue to FREILOT-compliant companies through reduced fuel consumption and more accurate and reliable delivery times, all of which provide important benefits to the urban population in terms of decreased congestion and pollution. Non-FREILOT compliant lorries will not enjoy the benefits of the system, and thus will lose out.

Traffic management
Lorries impact on urban roads in proportion to their characteristics – size, weight etc. In a non-energy efficient intersection, they would be treated in the same way as a car – or rather, ignored in the same way, despite the fact that they cause greater delays when starting from a stopped position. In FREILOT, they would be treated as a priority vehicle, minimising their time at a red light. This would actually benefit all road users, not just the lorries themselves, as a car would no longer be stuck behind a painfully slowly accelerating vehicle! Before we get any visions of lorries speeding through intersections much like some absurdly inflated emergency vehicle, we should stress that they would be put in a rather lower category – first would be emergency vehicles, then public transport, and only then FREILOT lorries.
In fact, the city authority would be able to decide on how much priority to give to FREILOT lorries. A lorry could be “weighted” as equal to three cars, or to five, whereas a bus would be more, and an emergency vehicle would have absolute priority. Or priority could vary according to the time of day or location, allowing the city authority to encourage deliveries outside of rush hour, or along certain routes.

Vehicle adaptation
A FREILOT compliant vehicle would have both an acceleration limiter and a speed limiter. An acceleration limiter would optimise, according the needs of the fleet operator, the trade-off between fuel consumption and overall mobility, specific to the route and delivery options in question. As fuel consumption is greater when accelerating than cruising, this could produce savings of 5-10 per cent.
Likewise, we know that one per cent of fuel can be saved in urban driving each time the average speed is lowered by 1km/h. So again, based on the needs of the fleet operator taking into account the route chosen and the delivery details, the optimum speed can be calculated and transmitted to the driver in real-time. The driver can of course always reject the advice depending on the circumstances.

Driver adaptation
FREILOT will support “green driving” in two ways. Firstly, the driver will receive optimal green driving advice while driving. For instance, taking into account the position of the lorry vis-à-vis an intersection as well as current speed etc., the advice could be not to accelerate as the traffic light is about to change to red, but rather to cruise. Or the system would inform the driver of the “greenest” moment to change up or down a gear, based on speed, inclination of the road etc.
Secondly, driver data can be recorded and sent to the home office, allowing the fleet operator to make meaningful comparisons of driver performance. In this way, the fleet operator can decide, according to its own circumstances, the optimum style of driving, and make incentives for its drivers. If one driver, taking care to drive “greener”, can save fuel and therefore money with no or acceptable reduction in performance, then why should he not be rewarded? Other drivers would therefore be encouraged to match this performance through “greening” their driving habits.
Finally, the driver/fleet operator can book a delivery space to avoid the need for double parking or searching for a space. The booking would be specific to the lorry and could be updated in real-time should there be a delay. This would mean that the disruption to the traffic flow of the city would be minimised, as the lorry driver would not be an obstacle double parked on the street, nor would he have to circle the block searching for a space.
The FREILOT project will demonstrate efficacy of the system at the four pilot cities, as well as its ease of implementation.
Zeljko Jeftic stresses that FREILOT is not a research project, as it is uses close-to-market technologies: “While our first aim is indeed to demonstrate the various services and benefits of FREILOT, our other aims are to ensure that FREILOT implementation continue their operation past the 2.5 year project lifespan and also expands to other cities.”
Most cities already use their traffic management centres to support selective priority for emergency vehicles or public transport, so could upgrade their systems very economically. The FREILOT project will identify and resolve any issues dealing with non-technical matters, such as driver acceptance, business models, cost-benefit analysis and regulatory aspects.
The FREILOT consortium is actively seeking cooperation with interested parties to ensure the success of the project and the longevity of its services. The FREILOT scheme offers cities the chance to manage traffic flow more efficiently, fleet operators and drivers a competitive edge, and urban residents a greener and more efficient road network. And for the frustrated motorists trying to pass our erstwhile double parked lorry? A promise of clearer roads in the future.

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