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Reducing Carbon Emissions Through Efficiency

Speaking at the Alternative Fuel Summit, organised by the Victorian Transport Association Professor Russell Thompson is Professor of Transport Engineering and Department of Infrastructure Engineering at the University of Melbourne, looked into reducing carbon emissions through efficiency.

“I’ve only got one formula in this presentation, for the concept of network efficiency, tonne kilometres divided by the number of kilometres travelled,” said Russell.

“Tonne kilometres represents demand, we move stuff and we move it over distances and this is not going to change. It’s actually increasing, we actually need more stuff and demand it should be transported. We get some scary predictions about how it’s going to grow dramatically and asking how the industry is going to cope, and that’s the scary part.

“However, the denominator in terms of efficiency is the vehicle kilometres travelled, how far the vehicles are traveling to satisfy this demand. If we can start to think about our vehicles and their capacity, and how that capacity can be utilised more, and how these networks can be transformed, this provides a significant opportunity to lower our emissions.

“What we should think about is how we can deliver the same freight, but running over fewer kilometres. We can start thinking about how these networks are designed and configured and operated to reduce the amount of movement and the distances of overall travel. This is an important concept, I believe, and this introduces the physical internet.”

Russell has been involved in this area for over five years, and it’s an emerging area of concepts, based on an analogy with the digital internet. He points out that we’re not worried about how the e data is transmitted, and don’t care about where it goes, all we want is information that we request quickly, fast and accurately.

This concept of a physical internet has been around for about 10 years, with the aim of trying emulate a lot of the characteristics of the digital internet in terms of the compatibility and integration into the physical world of road freight.

Image: Prime Creative Media

Looking at the integration of the standards, to try and get that efficiency into the network. looking at open and shared networks, which are more collaboratively orientated.

“Things are going to have to be standardised because, there’s a lot more exchange and sharing of resources,” said Russell. “Compatibility of goods and load units are very important, and we’re certainly going to have a lot of visibility along the supply chain to know where things are, and to know when things might be coming.

“This is a an advanced concept and an Australian company called GS1 Australia have developed some really good standards for allowing the information exchange necessary, for these exchanges and for this transparency to be implemented.

“We’re working with GS1, and they’ve really got some amazing standards to be able to track at low cost and to be able to share this information, to be able to get that confidence that the goods, when they are trans-shipped and are moving around with different vehicles, we know where they are and what’s going on.

“The concept of the physical internet is that we have got loads of different units and they need to be exchanged and transferred, so they need to be standard. We are moving to the concept of the right mode for the right load. The idea is to actually recognise that often this needs to involve multiple modes.

“We need to think about how much of this available capacity we’re using within our vehicles and the inevitability that we need to do this efficiently, revolves around exchanging our goods at hubs and nodes to get this efficiency.”


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