From headlines like the Guardian’s “It's now or never: Scientists warn time of reckoning has come for the planet"1 and EuroNews’ "'This is climate change': July was world's hottest month on record"2 to activism from Greta Thunberg, and governments beginning to introduce mandatory electric vehicle sales quotas3, the push to go green affects all individuals and businesses in some way or another – the road transport sector very much included.
Away from recent announcements like the DfT having divvied out £20m through its Transport Decarbonisation Plan4 to projects specifically aimed at exploring the viability of electrifying HGVs using overhead powerlines on motorways, and the ‘greening’ of global supply chains5, how are sustainability, decarbonisation, and environmental friendliness in general evident in the haulage sector when it comes to articulated HGV semi-trailers?
The majority of semi-trailers Tiger manufactures for its diverse customer base feature non-slip phenolic coated plywood floors, often supplied by Metsä Wood. Phenolic broadly refers to resins and in this instance sees a film laid onto the underlying birch plywood panel, providing a trailer with wear-resistance combined with enhanced aesthetics, meaning it’s durable, safe for operatives and looks good. The material is easy to clean, withstands high impacts, and is environmentally friendly. Metsä Wood’s anti-slip flooring is used throughout the transport industry, on buses, trains, and ships’ decking.
Finland, the most wooded country in Europe with 86% tree coverage, is where the birch ply flooring seen in many Tiger Trailers products originates from. Sustainability is at the heart of Finnish supplier Metsä Wood’s business, and the country’s forests grow faster than they are harvested, at a 5:3 ratio each year, making the operation not just neutral but positive.
HGV trailers have long been a major focus6 for Metsä Wood, whose flooring is available in a wide variety of panel sizes to suite commercial vehicles from transit tippers, kerbside delivery vans and 7t to 26t rigid trucks through to moving deck double deck semi-trailers. The firm’s 30mm 300 and 500 birch plywood is capable of carrying a 7.8t fork-lift axle load, and its benefits include good friction values making it ideal for load securing, along with the ability to be sized to withstand the load peaks trailer flooring is subjected to when driven on uneven roads. Fitting the chequer flooring over the beam enables operators to comply with ISO1496 and paper-carrying operations.
A wooden stool stores 8.64kg of carbon dioxide (CO2), offsetting 34 miles in a car, meaning via extrapolation that a single deck curtainsided or box van semi-trailer pulled by a truck unit stores around 36.7kg of CO2, helping to mitigate approximately 145 miles driven. At the far end of the scale, Metsä Wood says that a wooden home as typically seen in Scandinavian countries stores 30 tonnes of CO2, offsetting 164,000 air miles by plane7.
Each year, Metsä Wood sends 30 million seedlings to be planted in Finnish forests and plants four trees for every one it cuts down. Every part of each tree is used, almost eliminating wastage, and resulting in full efficiency, while 100% of the company’s wood can be traced back at tree level to its point of origin.
Road transport haulage operators and logistics businesses the world over would concur that HGV trailers and other commercial vehicles face tough lives, with wear and tear a given, often combined with minor damage sustained in yards. Fleet managers require their assets to be tough and durable, but at the same time they need to be lightweight to maximise load carrying capacity in pallets or sheer tonnage, and to save diesel.
Back in 2019, Tiger Trailers’ innovative engineers and designers achieved a circa 13% weight saving for British Gypsum and XPO with their lightweight (6,500kg as opposed to the typical 7,350kg) curtainsider trailers, which enables them to transport a 29,500kg payload within 44t operating limits, utilising Tata Steel’s Ympress S700MC and Metallic Coated S450 GD materials.
Tata Steel has again8, in 2020/21, enabled Tiger to offer its household name customers trailers that are lightweight yet strong, by developing remarkable materials for the sector. Manufactured in Britain, Tata Steel’s 10mm Coretinium® composite sheet, is a thin lightweight side wall solution, enabling valuable internal space to be freed up for pallets and cages within Delivery Group/Secured Mail, Hovis, Rathbones’ (Morrisons) and DPD’s moving deck double deck trailers.
Deriving exceptional strength from its steel skins and honeycomb core, Coretinium® is an ideal alternative to traditional 21mm GRP ply-side walls and can be integrated by means of a smooth interlock joint. At typically 10.6kg/m2 with 0.55mm steel skins, the composite is efficient at all stages of its product life cycle; from minimising raw materials in its creation, to saving weight & maximising payload space to help reduce fuel & CO2 from a trailer fleet throughout the working life of the trailer.
End of Life recyclability is equally important as a feature of Coretinium®, it can easily be recycled back into steel at the end of life without the need for separation of the skins from the core, essentially meaning that 85% of the material’s composition and weight can be turned back into useable steel.
One of the axle suppliers whose products commonly feature in the articulated trailers Tiger manufactures for its customers is BPW, based in Leicestershire and a subsidiary of Europe’s leading axle and suspension manufacturer for the road transport sector. The company’s ECO Wheel, available in ‘highly polished’ and ‘brilliant’ variants, offers a 50% weight reduction over a standard steel wheel for a semi-trailer, allowing for a larger payload, and is, crucially, 100% recyclable, making it an environmentally friendly choice9.
Premium brand tyres are often fitted to HGV trailers and one of the leading OEMs, Continental, is contributing to the development of products for a sustainable transport sector and has announced specific strides in reducing rolling resistance to lessen its detrimental impact on a fleets’ fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. In physics terms, the forward movement of a truck and trailer subjects tyre sidewalls to flexing, bending and sheer forces, meaning that their shape continuously deforms and recovers in a process known as hysteresis, which is the main contributor behind rolling resistance by as much as 90% and which sees heat lost as a result. Rolling resistance is also caused by aerodynamic drag of the tractor and trailer, by natural forces of gravity and inertia, mechanical component friction, and by friction that exists between tyres and the road beneath. Tyre pressure and alignment are also factors in rolling resistance, and so are weight and load distribution10.
Although the UK has now Brexited from the EU, European countries, in which many of Tiger Trailers’ customers operator, are collaboratively working towards slowing down climate change in accord with the Paris Agreement, having been set targets of cutting average HGV CO2 emissions compared to 2019/20 by 15% by 2025 and 30% by 2030. Rolling resistance is one of seven parameters used by the European Union’s new software tool11 called VECTO, which calculates the fuel efficiency of light and heavy commercial vehicles with GVWs of 7.5t through to truck tractor units and trailers, along with buses, coaches, and waste collection waggons.
The proliferation in online retail and the resulting surge in parcel delivery operations has translated into significant orders for Tiger and other OEM semi-trailer manufacturers, but Continental highlighted an interesting environment-related trend12 in October 2020 when it revealed that a generalised total of 25% of truck journeys are for the transportation of return goods rejected by customers for various reasons, equalling 17bn kilometres each year at a CO2 emission cost of 1.5bn kilogrammes, perhaps causing consumers to think again.
BPW announced not that long ago a partnership13 with Thermo King, part of Trane Technologies, to develop an economical, ecological, and sustainable solution for OEM manufacturers like Tiger Trailers to fit to their customers’ temperature-controlled trailers.
Unsurprisingly, diesel generator power has made way for electric fridge units, many which are now available with solar power for even greater sustainability gains by means of renewable energy, as adopted by ECS (incorporating 2XL), a Tiger Trailers customer based in Belgium14.
Electric generators are not just more fuel-efficient but also quieter, providing wins in noise pollution stakes too, and their low or in some cases zero emissions make them ideal for road transport fleets whose routes incorporate LEZ and ULEZ at a time when large cities are increasingly making moves to ban diesel HGVs. In parallel, traditional R-404A ‘HFC’ refrigerants are making way for new R-452A standards, lowering environmental impact by 45% and complying with F-GAS regulations15.
Meanwhile, Carrier Transicold offers a world first to hauliers whose operations require refrigerated containers alongside or in lieu of trailers, in the form of NaturaLINE16, which utilises naturally occurring CO2 instead of synthetic refrigerants, pitching it as the most environmentally sustainable option for marine transport, with a global warming potential (GWP) of 1 and a 95% recyclability rate.
At a time when literally every industry is having, and in many laudable cases choosing, to address and soften its environmental impact and carbon footprint while introducing sustainability, the haulage sector, which according to DfT figures17 contributes 18% towards road transport emissions, is experiencing a significant period of evolution.
Although some moves may feel debatable, like the previously cited proposal to introduce Siemens Mobility’s eHighway overhead powerline technology to truck lanes on a 19-mile stretch of the M180 motorway, which may conjure images of times past with the advent of trolley buses and indeed trains, it’s evident from this insight into HGV trailer suppliers’ green products that innovation is having a positive impact and that every part, from flooring and axles to tyres and refrigeration, now has environmental awareness built in.