Decarbonizing the operations of small and medium-sized road carriers in Europe

An analysis of their perspectives, motives, and challenges

Decarbonizing the operations of small and medium-sized road carriers in Europe

An analysis of their perspectives, motives, and challenges

Smart Freight Centre and the Kühne Logistics University’s Center for Sustainable Logistics and Supply Chains analyzed the status quo of the European road freight carrier market in regard to its decarbonization efforts. The report builds on a joint study, which was conducted among small- and medium-sized in cooperation with the transport platform provider Transporeon and complemented with additional research and interviews.

Perspectives and capabilities from more than 800 carriers are captured in the report, presenting a unique insight into the European carrier market. This market is made up of mostly small sized companies, which work for larger logistics service providers or shippers and constitute the crucial, asset-heavy part of the industry. As GHG emissions from heavy-duty vehicles alone are responsible for around 20% of all transport related GHG emissions in Europe this sector needs to be decarbonized swiftly.

The research shows that carriers are currently insufficiently engaged in the topic and existing emission reduction potential is not utilized. Key takeaways of the study include: 

  • Across Europe, 2/3 of carriers seem to be aware of the urgency and importance of the topic, but their overall engagement with decarbonization initiatives is limited for a variety of reasons. 
  • There is a close correlation between the size of a company’s fleet and the extent to which it sees environmental improvements yielding commercial benefits. Especially carriers with less than 20 vehicles see limited benefits and therefore lack basic capabilities. While carrier with bigger fleets have a greater awareness of decarbonization and take 10-30% more carbon-reducing actions.
  • 43% of carriers are not able to calculate and report GHG emissions.
  • Many carriers lack information about the range of technical and operational measures that can cut fuel consumption and emissions.
  • Cost pressures and customer expectations are found to be the biggest drivers for climate action. As a result, the uptake of measures is also inhibited by uncertainty about their financial impact and a perception that freight buyers have little interest in environmental performance. 
  • However, carriers that are aware of decarbonization solutions do tend also to implement them. In general carriers are twice as likely to implement operational than technical fuel efficiency measures.

Following the survey results, recommendations for key stakeholders to increase and incentivize decarbonization efforts in the market are presented.

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Prof. Alan C. McKinnon, PhD

Professor of Logistics

Kühne Logistics University - KLU

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