Freight and Logistics

Images courtesy of Roger Marks via Flickr Creative Commons

Freight is often a rather neglected area of transport policy, yet has critical roles to play in advancing the UK economy, in helping transport meet its carbon emissions targets, and in ensuring that our national infrastructure keeps functioning. Drawing from recent international developments, this work stream is exploring a number of important challenges, including whether improved intermodal freight operations can provide economic, environmental, and logistical benefits for the UK, as well as how to solve capacity problems and developing more efficient usage of freight networks.

A scoping report was completed and to launch the study a Discussion Event was held in July 2013 in London with leading freight and logistics experts. The research programme released the first phase report ‘Improving the efficiency of freight movements: the contribution to UK economic growth‘ in July 2014. This report identifies several important ways and means by which the UK freight and logistics industry might improve its efficiency, namely in empty container movements, port-centric warehousing and distribution, and urban freight distribution priorities. At the same time, it also identified a number of problems with the collection and use of freight data and statistics. As a result, the ITC has been exploring this issue closely with policy makers and statisticians at the Department for Transport with a view to helping improve the quality of freight data, thereby measuring more accurately the importance of the sector to the UK economy as well as opportunities for efficiency improvements.

Delegates enjoy a presentation from the DfT at the Freight Workshop in November 2015

Together with the Department for Transport, the ITC convened a major workshop on Friday 27 November 2015 to address these issues with leading experts from across the UK. The aim of the event was to identify the data challenges currently faced, and to discuss potential solutions in relation to: macro-economic factors; inter-modality; understanding end-to-end journeys; and opportunities of new technologies. The ITC has had continued discussion with the ORR and the DfT in order to progress the findings and actions resulting from the workshop.

The ITC has expanded on the research stemming from the 2014 report on improving efficiency in freight movements, undertaking a more in-depth exploration of urban freight distribution. The report, How can we improve urban freight distribution in the UK: challenges and solutions, was published in May 2017 explored the challenges and potential solutions for the freight industry in urban areas. To explore how the challenges of urban freight transport can be met, the ITC focused on three case studies each designed to meet different policy challenges: retiming deliveries, the use of urban consolidation centres, and addressing the ‘last mile’ through new technologies. The findings from the case studies led to a number of principles that policymakers should use when addressing urban freight policy challenges, including: collaborate to succeed, support innovative pilot schemes, achieve behavioural change, understand the trade-offs, find ways of scaling up projects to achieve maximum benefit, and create appropriate regulatory frameworks on a timely basis.

In 2020 we are now preparing to commission a new research study, exploring how HM Treasury can better appraise the wider benefits that arise from efficient freight movements on all modes of transport.