2018 TRL Academy Symposium - Future of Freight

The Future of Freight - Navigate from Vision to Mission

TRL calls for action in bringing clarity to the future direction of the UK Freight Industry at its annual Academy Symposium

The freight industry is under significant pressure to operate more efficiently, and to reduce emissions in accordance with the Road to Zero policy. Customer demand is rising; however margins are shrinking. New connected and automated vehicle technologies promise solutions but bring with them significant challenges.

This year’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) Academy Symposium got to the heart of the debate, and the key issues were discussed through a number of presentations from industry leaders. Read a summary of the day’s proceedings and topics debated.  

Wake-up call required

The problem is bigger than anyone can solve alone. UK Government needs the help of the industry to make the right strategic choices. It was clear from this 2018 TRL Academy event that focus, dedication and a togetherness across the entire industry will be required. There was clear willingness at the Symposium for major players in the industry to collaborate and co-operate: what they lack is a platform from which to address and support the Government.

Nick Gazzard (CEO of Incept and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport) led the wake-up call. In this interview he highlights the fundamental problems facing the UK, the implications of doing nothing, and calls on the industry to take control of its own destiny.


Data is critical

One of the biggest surprises to many in the freight sector is the lack of credible information about everything from the size of the industry through to how much it contributes to the UK economy. To be able to develop effective plans for the future, having credible data at the industry’s fingertips is essential. The industry will need to work collaboratively to decide what information to collect, and how to gather it. There are technology innovations such as the Internet of Things and Blockchain which could assist, but it is technology which needs to be harnessed for advantage.

In this interview, Prof. Samir Dani (Professor of Logistics and Supply Chain for Huddersfield Business School) talks about the dangers of treating decarbonisation as an isolated goal and the role of the human. He warns of the crippling impact to the economy of breaches on data security and calls for the industry to design data security into new systems from the outset. He asks for the Government to back the best initiatives and help encourage their adoption.


Road to Zero strategy must be met

The freight sector is the lifeblood of the UK economy, and is only set to grow. This is why zero emission vehicle technologies are fundamental to the success of the Road to Zero strategy.

Decarbonisation and sustainability won’t happen without technology advancements, but these also need to evolve with new delivery models, and may require a change to customer perceptions of the true cost of delivery of goods. New technology needs to be tested and deployed faster, but at some point the customer has to want to pay for it.

“Delivery to person” is the main demand made on operators creating stress to the UK freight and logistics industry. In his interview, Prof. Tom Cherrett (Professor of Logistics and Transport Management within Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Southampton) reviews the impact on the employment model supporting the industry, and calls for help from policy makers and local authorities in progressing the natural collaboration that is evolving rapidly to mutual benefit.

Future freight concepts

There are numerous trials currently being undertaken across the UK, demonstrating a wide range of options available to the freight industry to meet future needs. In his presentation, Gavin Bailey, Head of Innovation for Freight and Logistics at TRL summarised what is happening and the potential for transforming freight delivery in the UK. The industry could be doing more to help Government pick early winners and accelerate the pace of change.

In this interview, Gavin explains how TRL can facilitate a transformation to the sector.


The full report

 Download the PDF of our report of the full day's proceedings.

In summary

The freight industry is feeling the heat from Government, from its own supply chain and consumers to enable change quickly, efficiently and importantly, successfully. With a wide range of technologies either available, or being trialled to be taken advantage of in the future, most agree that it is time the sector took hold of the changes required and delivered a cost-effective, doable plan that will enable it to take charge of its own destiny. 

Slides from the event can be accessed here:

Introduction: From vision to mission

Nick Gazzard: The state of freight in the UK

Matthew Edwards: Moving to Zero

Prof. Samir Dani: Blockchain, IoT and Big Data - shaping tomorrow's distribution environment

Gavin Bailey : Future freight concepts


Get in Touch

Have a question? Speak to one of our experts today