Future of freight

Logistics UK has welcomed the government’s ‘Future of Freight’ plan, saying it provides “clarity” on the future direction of DfT freight policy.

Michelle Gardner, head of public policy at Logistics UK, said: “The publication of the Future of Freight plan is a positive step forward for industry; it reaffirms government’s vital support of one of the largest sectors of the UK economy and helps to provide clarity for logistics businesses moving forward.

“The inclusion of £7m investment to boost the uptake of innovative new technologies and the development of a National Freight Network is particularly welcome. The government is also right to focus on planning rules to reduce barriers to building new logistics developments and driver parking and facilities – we look forward to engaging with the call for evidence.”

A key pillar of the ‘Future of Freight’ plan is the development of “system-level approach” to the freight network supporting end-to-end freight journeys that are “more efficient, reliable and resilient”. This will include “considering the need to identify a National Freight Network” to maximise opportunities for “modal shift to make use of capacity in the freight system”.

Freight strategy minister Trudy Harrison MP told MT: “The National Freight Network will involve understanding in more granular detail about how goods come into, move around and leave the country. That is about getting the data and understanding what are the strategic roads and other networks.

“Whilst we have some knowledge at the moment the more data we have the more we can inform areas like the planning process which the industry tells me time and time again holds them back. This is a call for evidence and we will act on that specific information from the industry about when their business has not been able to grow because of a planning decision or policy.”

To address “limited awareness” of innovative solutions coming to market and an “incomplete understanding amongst industry and government of viable technologies’ ability to meet real-world freight problems”, the plan also calls for government and industry to “co-design” a new dedicated £7m cross-modal Freight Innovation Fund and collaborate to develop the future pipeline of research and solutions to meet the sector’s requirements.

While the government has already announced £200m funding for an extensive zero emission road freight demonstrator programme, the plan also sets out the freight sector’s “opportunities to lead the world in developing and rolling out zero emission solutions, gaining global first mover advantages in some of the most challenging areas”. Admitting that there “remains some uncertainty around the precise mix of technologies and the delivery of associated energy infrastructure that will be needed”, the plan urges “industry and government to quickly build confidence in energy infrastructure and decarbonisation pathways in order to accelerate the deployment of zero emission technologies”.

This will involve establishing a Freight Energy Forum to build confidence in the transition, undertaking a regulatory review of barriers to delivery of zero carbon energy infrastructure and maximising the potential of modal initiatives by “demonstrating a zero emission cross-modal freight journey”.

The plan also includes actions to address the industry’s skills shortage, including the launch of Generation Logistics on the same day that future freight plan was unveiled, collaboration to ensure the Transport Employment and Skills Taskforce meets future skills, helping to deliver a programme of employer engagement and reforming the freight and logistics industry’s training offers to encourage transferable qualifications.

In her foreword to the plan, Harrison pledged: “All this will be overseen by a refreshed Freight Council model, holding the government and sector to account on the delivery of these commitments over coming years.”