A new international partnership focused on tackling road freight emissions was launched at last month’s COP21 climate change forum in Paris.

Its aim is to explore the “currently untapped and unmapped potential” for reducing emissions through better fleet optimisation and collaboration between road freight operators.

Truck manufacturer Scania, operators Nestlé and UPS and optimisation firm Route Monkey have all signed up to the Low Carbon Technology Partnerships initiative (LCTPi), which aims to help meet a science-based target of a 48% drop in absolute emissions between 2010 and 2050.

The partnership is led by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and will see companies developing a series of emission-reduction programmes during 2016.

This will be followed by real-world testing in 2017 and 2018.

Ideas being explored include improving the accessibility of the latest fleet optimisation tools to SME operators, co-optimisation of multiple fleet movements through a common ICT platform, and the sharing of assets such as distribution centres and fleet vehicles.

Scania said enhancements in vehicle connectivity and the digitalisation of fleets would play a key role in improving future road freight efficiencies.

“Digitalisation will provide road haulage and transport buyers with a strong tool to take control of the entire logistic chain in order to optimise transport flows,” said Urban Wästljung, senior adviser at Scania.

“Connectivity in combination with new vehicle technology and renewable energy is a game changer in the transition to a sustainable transport system,” he said.

He added that in addition to optimised route and load planning, connectivity can also help reduce CO2 emissions through boosting fuel efficiency and improving driver performance.

Colin Ferguson, CEO of Route Monkey, said: “Route Monkey’s optimisation already today cuts carbon emissions and overheads by up to 20% for more than 400 fleet customers.

"By combining selected fleets through this WBCSD initiative, we will from next year enable additional efficiency improvements of 15% with diesel, and up to 60% with alternative fuels.”

Alan Gershenhorn, executive vice president and chief commercial officer for UPS, added: “With a recent International Transport Forum study projecting that freight volumes could quadruple by 2050, the initiative is an important catalyst to spearhead solutions to help manage and mitigate transport sector emissions.”

The WBCSD said the transport sector produces around 23% of total energy-related CO2 emissions.

Greenhouse gas emissions from transport are one of the fastest growing sectors, while emissions from freight transport have been growing even more rapidly than those from passenger transport.

This is expected to continue to be the case, particularly in emerging and developing economies.