The boss of one of the largest own-account fleets in the country, Morrisons, has launched a robust defence of the longer semi-trailer trial claiming it has helped it deliver a 6.5% productivity saving since the trial began.

Speaking at the IGD Supply Chain conference in London last week Malcolm Basey, supply chain director at Morrisons, said that the supermarket giant had “taken advantage” of the re-allocation of longer semi-trailers in September.

It runs 38 15.65m trailers and will take delivery of a further 40 15.65m trailers between now and Christmas.

Changes by the DfT that came into effect in September mean that operators can now dictate whether they want to run 14.6m or 15.65m longer semi-trailers as part of the trial.

Before the changes were made, just 550 trailers out of 1,800 allocations had been put on the road, around 100 of which were 14.6m. A further 500 applications were made in the month following the change, the same month that Labour said it would look to scrap the trial on safety grounds.

“They are helping us on those small, unbalanced trips when an order does not fit on the standard equipment. It gives us flexibility and reduces those extra trips,” he said.

“We have been driving productivity in our DCs and our transport operation. This year we have converted more stores to be able to accept double-deck trailers. This operation focuses more on our larger stores and our more distant ones. We have put more than 100 double-deck trailers into operation now,” Basey added.

“This year we also re-modelled all of our transport routes to optimise them and make them as efficient as they could be. Combining all these elements gives us savings of 130,000km a week. That is a 6.5% productivity saving and a significant saving in carbon.”

Basey also revealed that Morrisons would be looking to "drive this area harder” next year as it sought further productivity savings.

“We will do that by, for example, collapsing a satellite operation in Scotland, in Bathgate, into our  main RDC and other transport operations,” he said.

In June  Morrisons extended its convenience store contract with Wincanton by five years for the handling of the logistics for its convenience stores in the North.