Justin Laney | General Manager, Fleet | John Lewis Partnership


Scope for optimism in times of change

October 2020

Managing a transport cold chain has always been challenging, and will become more so as we go through a revolution in the fuels we use. We need to find solutions that enable us to move away from fossil fuels and ultimately reduce emissions to net zero. The one-size-fits-all diesel van will have to be replaced by much more bespoke solutions, where there is a trade-off between range, payload, cost and charging capacity.

Likewise the traditional and ubiquitous trailer refrigeration unit will need to clean-up. There will be new risks to manage and more skills to learn. Timing and trialing is also all-important; move too fast and you risk losing customers; move too slow and you have a competitive disadvantage.

Infrastructure provides another dimension of complexity – it’s often more challenging than providing vehicles, it must be in place before vehicles arrive, and you have to plan for what to do if it fails.

Importantly there are also new safety and financial risks to manage and skills to learn. All this requires engagement with bodies that can help, be it academic research, trade bodies or organisations dedicated to low and zero carbon vehicles.

All this is not easy, but there is a great opportunity here; to reduce carbon emissions by millions of tonnes, improve air quality, reduce noise and reduce congestion.

Finally it’s also an opportunity to improve the perception of the vehicle engineering industry to one that is more high-tech, forward looking, and exciting, and that in turn could help us attract the very best, and fully diverse, job candidates.

Overall then, we’re entering a period of change unlike anything we’ve seen for 100 years. There are things to learn and risks to manage, but also real scope for optimism.

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