In most European countries, road freight demand has been closely correlated with economic growth for several decades. Forecasts of future demand usually assume the continuation of this trend. However, the underlying causes for this relationship have not previously been studied in a European context. They need to be understood so that effective policies can be identified that can break the trend and reduce congestion and environmental costs.
REDEFINE aimed to model and quantify the factors, relating changes in the structure of industry and supply chain logistics, to changes in road freight demand. A key interest was to identify and prioritise transport policy measures to reduce the negative externalities of freight traffic.
REDEFINE examined the economic, trade and freight transport data of France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom for the period 1985-1995. The relationship between the value of produced and imported goods and the consequent vehicle kilometres was shown to be complex, with different behaviour in different countries and between different types of commodity. Simple explanations, such as ascribing traffic growth to the increase in Just-In-Time production, were shown not to be valid – multiple factors have to be considered. An increase in the average length of haul, (typically 20-40%) was identified as the single most important contributor to increased road freight demand.
Forecasts were prepared for the growth in road freight from 1995 to 2005 for the sectors of agricultural products, food and drink, building materials, and transport equipment. In the majority of cases, tonne-kilometres are expected to grow faster than production, but vehicle-kilometre activity will show a similar growth path to production. Sweden is the exception, requiring fewer vehicle-kilometres per unit of production as time progresses.
The marginal costs of congestion due to increased freight traffic are expected to increase by nearly 50% over the forecasting period. CO2 emissions will follow the growth in vehicle kilometres, while regulated pollutants such as NOx will decrease dramatically as cleaner vehicles are introduced.
REDEFINE assessed policy measures aimed at reducing transport intensity, (i.e. the amount of transport needed per unit of production) shifting freight between modes, increasing the efficiency of transport organisation, making better use of vehicles, and using better vehicles and fuels. The following measures were found highly effective in almost all supply chains, (in descending order of effectiveness):
- introducing on-board measuring and debiting for emissions;
- increasing fuel tax generally;
- introducing an eco-label for companies achieving best practice in their logistic operations;
- introducing tradeable emissions permits.
The following measures were evaluated as effective across a significant number of supply chains (again in descending order of effectiveness):
- introducing road pricing;
- introducing tradeable vehicle-km permits;
- introducing congestion pricing;
- co-ordinating land-use planning and transport planning;
- encouraging the siting of transport-intensive production and logistics activities at suitable locations;
- standardising load units (intermodal equipment, pallets etc);
- introducing annual road prices;
- increasing vehicle tax generally.