Better use of transport could cut CO2 emissions from building industry

Denmark could make significant cuts in carbon dioxide emissions if the construction industry used road transport more efficiently, says a new report. With 40% of journeys made with empty homebound trucks, freight transport needs better planning of delivery and return routes. Denmark is calling on the construction industry to improve planning all round.

Denmark’s Environmental Protection Agency studied freight transport to and from the rebuilding of Aalborg airport and construction works on a high street in Aalborg city. Of 2,000 haulage trips surveyed, the EPA found that only 38% of trucks were carrying their full capacity, with 40% being empty. The EPA calculated that a realistic improvement in transport efficiency could cut CO2 emissions by 25-50%.

In its latest report, the EPA recommends earlier ordering of materials so that suppliers have longer to plan their routes. If necessary, a developer might have to impose requirements on its contractors to plan and order materials earlier. The EPA also advocates a better exchange of information so that joint deliveries can be organised between individual construction sites.

Usually, blueprints and decisions are not finalized until the advanced stage and contractors may be reluctant to store materials on site due to the risk of theft. Both result in last minute or day-to-day ordering of materials. Neither contractors nor suppliers currently have incentives to improve the efficiency of freight transport, because a fast, flexible and last-minute service is favoured by the building industry.

The EPA acknowledges that the only way to make changes might be for clients to push for improvements or for transport refinement to become profitable. Haulage firms loosely co-ordinate their efforts, so co-operation could be increased to exploit homebound journeys more profitably. An alternative method might be to set up a mediator to co-ordinate deliveries across building sites and make use of any free capacity in returning trucks.

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