Transport buyers as drivers for investments in ’greener’ solutions
Most companies have not yet realized that efficiency in transportation implies both economic and environmental benefits. A development towards resource-efficient transport is not just a step towards a ’greening ‘of transport systems. It is also a step for the STRING region’s transport companies to become the most competitive players in the national and international market.

Photo: Skånemejerier A/B

Transport buyers can trigger implementation of innovation but ultimately the transport operator alone carries the risk of investment


Transport buyers increasingly demand cheap, reliable and  increasingly innovative solutions. As of now, it is generally only larger transport forwarders that are able to adopt and implement these new solutions due primarily to financial resources, access to technology, and know how.


Nevertheless, in a new study from the Green STRING Corridor project and conducted by Oxford Research,  three transport buyers and three transport forwarders in the STRING region have been used as examples on how to promote and highlight the potential of innovative transport and logistics solutions in a future green transport corridor between the Öresund Region and Hamburg. At a more concrete level, the project demonstrates the link between business and environment, a link which is supported by efficient transport solutions.


It has been the aim of this study to identify possible reasons for adopting greener transport solutions, which can vary and be highly context-dependent both for transport provider and buyer.  Moreover, this study shows various drivers for change and identifies key barriers that these companies need to overcome when adopting or implementing greener solutions. Relevant questions for the study include the role of facilitators in decision-making impact and the role authorities have had in these processes.


Milk and biogas


Plyms Åkeri from Scania is a pioneer in using alternative fuels for its distribution of dairy products within its  local market. ""I was forced to use alternative fuels in order to stay in business as transport provider for our main customer"", says Lars Plym, owner of the road transport company "Plyms Åkeri" in Lödde (Sweden), when asked about his 2005 conversion from the traditional use of diesel fuels to the new, alternative fuels of biogas and compressed natural gas (CNG).


Plyms Åkeri is one of the local haulage contractors transporting milk and other dairy products for Skånemejerier in Malmö and around Scania. For such a relatively small transport company (nine drivers and the same number of trucks) buying these new trucks represented a significant investment. But despite the high financial risk, another economic factor has been the main driver for this change: The company's main customer, Skånemejerier, required its haulage contractors to use biogas or CNG if they were to transport their dairy products in urban areas.


For Plyms Åkeri, the shift was in fact a question of keeping its current job as distributor of dairy products. As Lars says, "they practically forced me to use alternative fuels". While the company did receive a financial subsidy for implementing this shift, Lars says that this support was not sufficient to cover for the relatively high investment costs and, as such, the initiative also involved a certain degree of risk-taking for Lars himself. Nevertheless, without the push by Skåne Mejerier, this shift to alternative fuels may not have happened. When Plyms Åkeri first started to use biogas and CNG, these alternative fuels had previously only been used for buses and garbage collection trucks, making Lars' company a first-mover.


Today, eight years later, Plyms Åkeri has five trucks for local distribution of dairy products in the Malmö region, all of them powered by biogas and CNG. In addition to this, these trucks use a refrigerating machine that is powered by carbonic acid instead of diesel, which further reduces both emissions and noise.


In addition to environmental benefits, Lars has also found these fuels to have economic benefits both in the shorter and longer run. According to Lars, using biogas and CNG has generally been cheaper and more cost-efficient than using diesel or petrol. He has found that trucks powered by biogas and CNG have longer lifetimes than diesel trucks. In addition to this, tax benefits when using alternative fuels in Sweden have served to reinforce his decision.. 


When it comes to the use of biogas and CNG as a potential for the establishment of a Green STRING Corridor, there is still room for improvements such as in infrastructure and increased number of filling stations for alternative fuels. "As long as there are filling stations that cover the whole transport route, biogas and CNG are well-functioning and efficient fuels for transport and distributions", Lars assures.


"As a grandfather, I have now become even more concerned about the environment and where the world is heading", Lars Plym concludes. As an effect of this concern, Lars has recently looked into the possibility of installing RME technology into his trucks, so that these could be driven on locally produced biodiesel; an initiative that would reduce the company's already low carbon footprint even further.


The study by Oxford Research also included five other interesting cases on companies in the STRING Region implementing different innovative measures for more efficient and environmentally better transport solutions. These cases are available by clicking on the links below:


Cases Sweden:


Coop - logical logistics; trains for gain

The coop intermodal transport solution


Plyms Åkeri - alternative fuels for sustainable milk distribution.

The persepective of a small and local transport provider in Skåne


Cases Denmark:


JH Transport - small changes, big impact.

Driver behavious as means for greener transportation.


Carlsberg - the Carlsberg train.

Pioneering the use of rail freight


Cases Germany:


European Cargo Logistics GmbH - shifting from road to rail

The perspective of a medium sized German logistics service provider


GST Worldwide Logistics GmbH - reducing cost and Co2 emissions by reusing packages

The perspective of a specialised small German logistics provider


See the associated report HERE  for more information on the cases, such as their motivation and challenges; which facilitators they have had; and the potential role that the authorities can play in the decision making process. 


 By Sandrina Lohse