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Using larger trucks in urban areas? Renault Trucks initiates a debate with hauliers, local representatives and researchers

On 3 December, during the Pollutec tradeshow in Lyon, Stefano Chmielewski, President of Renault Trucks, chaired a roundtable discussion with various players involved in urban goods transport. Those taking part acknowledged that trucks play an essential role in urban life and - rather than wait for any unrealistic "miracles" - put forward a practical solution which could be swiftly implemented to make the most of its advantages and limit its drawbacks.

"Adopt larger trucks for use in urban areas - a challenge or an efficient solution for our environment?" This was the question debated by Jean-Claude Desseigne, Vice-President of Greater Lyon, François Bertreau, President of the Norbert Dentressangle Group board, Yves Crozet, Director of the Transport Economy Laboratory and Stefano Chmielewski, President of Renault Trucks.

Based on the premise that trucks are to goods transport what buses are to public transport, those taking part in this debate reiterated the legitimate place goods - and therefore trucks - have in towns. But in face of the "competition" for room on the roads, local authorities are faced with the challenge of giving them the space they need, and no doubt of introducing new means of organising the complex logistics of deliveries. 
 
There will therefore be a need of finding ways to optimise flows which, instead of being damaging to the environment, will be particularly favourable in an urban context. An example of this would be to use medium tonnage vehicles rather than a dozen smaller LCVs. This would reduce the ground area occupied by three, noise pollution by six, CO2 and polluting emissions by four, and energy consumption by three and a half. With this scenario, economic performance is not in contradiction with environmental performance and hauliers would be able to offer their customers gains resulting from the time and costs saved by this optimisation (or concentration), plus the benefits of lower fuel consumption offered by technological improvements in the vehicles. 

Since we should not wait for any "miracle" solution before acting, we can take steps now to introduce new forms of combining energies and technologies which will deliver rapid environmental gains. It is a matter of putting the right truck in the right place, using the best possible energy. For travelling from inter-modal hubs to unloading platforms on the outskirts of towns, tractors with semitrailers running on Diesel are irreplaceable. For delivering in towns, medium tonnage vehicles (12 to 26 tonnes) can run either on natural gas - an option already available - or use a hybrid solution combining an internal combustion engine and an electric motor. The experiment SITA is currently carrying out with a Renault Premium Hybrys Tech waste collection vehicle in the Greater Lyon area raises hopes of reducing CO2 emissions by around 30%. Finally, at Pollutec, Renault Trucks presented another solution - an electrically-powered Maxity concept vehicle, a genuine small "zero emission" vehicle for carrying out deliveries in town centres inaccessible to medium tonnage trucks.
 
It would seem that politicians are now more receptive to proposals put forward by goods transport professionals. Local authorities have every right to take steps to control goods mobility, often neglected at a higher level, via regulations, public area management, land management and the setting up of urban logistics centres. The Greater Lyon authority is working in partnership with the business community and is a joint founder of the Lyon Urban Truck and Bus competitive cluster, which is dedicated to goods and public transport systems in an urban environment. It offers opportunities of carrying out experiments with reduced CO2 and pollutant emissions, and aims to act as a laboratory for the clean trucks of the future.
 
This roundtable discussion took the debate one stage further. Each participant's position proved that goods transport's impact on the environment cannot be reduced unless all players concerned are involved, and solutions found which go beyond preconceived ideas or even change the entire way we think about these questions. There is no doubt that the future of goods transport in towns will involve a change of habits and ways of life for city dwellers who will have to largely forego "express" deliveries. In future, they will have to accept deliveries made by rounds, or have the option of going to pick up their packages from a district logistics depot rather than a "door to door" delivery. They will also have to put up with the idea of their corner grocery store getting deliveries at night. An approach which does call into question the rule of always giving customers total satisfaction - but as consumers ourselves, are we ready to accept such compromises?

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