The Scottish Wholesale Association has published the findings of the first phase of its groundbreaking ‘Decarbonisation of the Wholesale Industry’ project.

Focusing on emissions from the vehicles and fleets used within the critical food and drink wholesale industry in Scotland, the report includes the sector’s fleet emissions baseline as well as a fleet emissions roadmap to net zero.

Phase two of the project will focus on wholesalers’ buildings and cold storage with phase three then concentrating on how people/employees move around to, from and within their jobs.

Colin Smith, SWA chief executive, said: “This project is one of the most detailed undertaken by any sector involved in logistics and haulage, and is based on real data and evidence, compiled direct from our members.”

Key findings include:

  • The Scottish wholesale industry fleet operates a total of 2,198 vehicles.
  • Its baseline vehicle carbon emissions equate to 111k tonnes of CO2 per annum.
  • 75% of the sector’s total fleet emissions are from HGVs.
  • HGVs account for 48% of the total fleet and represent more than 3% of all the HGVs registered in Scotland.
  • There are currently no commercially viable zero-emission HGVs available in the UK.
  • Hydrogen-powered vehicles would appear to be the only commercially viable option for HGVs but adoption is many years away.
  • The prohibitive cost of vehicles/adaptation, and lack of fuelling infrastructure, is preventing wholesalers transitioning to hydrogen.
  • Vans account for 16% of the total fleet and contribute to 17% of total fleet emissions.
  • 46% of vans are refrigerated but there are currently no commercially viable electrically refrigerated vans available.

“These newly-available figures shine a spotlight on the barriers and challenges facing food and drink wholesalers – the ‘wheels to the food and drink industry’ – as they seek ways to reduce their carbon footprint,” said Smith. “The will is there but our members need more support from the Scottish Government to get there.

“We need the Scottish Government is to provide financial support for wholesalers to implement, a wholesale industry-wide driver efficiency training programme to reduce emissions. Some of our members are already using tools to help reduce emissions through driver efficiencies but we need more financial support to enable more wholesalers, particularly smaller ones who have suffered so much over the past 18 months, to join us on this important journey.”

The SWA is also asking for wider financial support from Government to set up a wholesale fleet audit service, enable the transition to green fleets, and for research that will help identify further routes to efficiencies with the wholesale sector.

By becoming a sector lead and sharing the reports and insight with the wider food and drink industry, Scottish Government, Transport Scotland and Scottish Enterprise, the SWA hopes that a more collaborative approach can be taken to transitioning to net zero.

SWA has already shown its desire to work with other industry partners and technology developers to find solutions to the challenges they face. Earlier this year, the SWA joined forces with Arcola Energy to identify the business case for fuel cell technology in the UK’s transition to zero-emission road freight.

The Scottish Hydrogen Fuel Cell Freight Trial (SHyFT), led by London-based Arcola Energy, has secured funding from the Department of Transport’s Zero Emission Road Freight programme for the design of a trial of hydrogen fuel cell trucks, supported by a green hydrogen refuelling infrastructure in Scotland and SWA members are involved in this trial.

“We’ve been doing a great deal of work on decarbonisation behind the scenes and our work with Arcola is progressing well,” said Smith. Arcola has an engineering and manufacturing facility in Dundee where it is assessing the opportunity for zero-emission fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) with key freight operators who are looking to decarbonise operations in emission-sensitive sectors such wholesale food and drink logistics – including cold chain – and utilities and forestry.

“Our work, designed to help SWA members and the wider wholesale sector become greener and more sustainable, will also help other sectors,” he added. “Our plans to decarbonise the wholesale food supply chain and achieve net-zero emissions by 2045, if not before, are ambitious but as we have heard during the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow – countries, governments and businesses must be bold in their approach.

“Our research will help wholesalers cut through the vast amount of information that is available to them by honing in on the immediate actions they can take to start their own net-zero journeys.

“It also highlights to the Scottish Government and its agencies the scale of the challenge the food and drink wholesale sector faces in the transition to net zero and, crucially, reiterates our commitment to work in partnership and face the challenges together.”

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