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Auto-guided vehicles, modal 'co-opetition' in transport's future

TORONTO -- In 20 years transport and logistics-related emissions will be tracked in the supply chain and factored into the price of products.

That, and other forecasts -- such as those elated to rising energy prices, reverse-globalization, and futuristic unmanned transport equipment -- were recently explored in a major PricewaterhouseCoopers study released today.

The global survey, titled 'Transportation and Logistics 2030,' asks 48 transport and logistics executives and several PwC specialists from around the world how supply chains will evolve in an "energy-constrained, low-carbon world?"

Among the questions: Will oil hit $1000 per barrel in 2030?

'No,' answered most respondents, although the scarcity of oil and the resulting price of energy over the next two decades is definitely a concern.

"The respondents overwhelmingly agreed that a massive hike in the oil price would have serious ramifications for the industry. Should oil prices soar to a four digit figure, regionalization of supply chains and relocation of production sites would be the consequence," states the executive summary. 

Future Trucks: Will they be unmamed, remote
controlled, run on natural gas or even water?

Over half of the respondents predict an "optimistic future scenario" in which alternative energy accounts for up to 80 percent of their overall energy mix.

The majority of global respondents see the reduction of CO(2) emissions and other emissions (such as nitrogen oxide and environmental noise) as a target in both the short and long-term.

To achieve that, say 70 percent of respondents, expect that by 2030 all emissions will be tracked all along the supply chain and the costs factored into the price of the product.

The supply chain will direct the cost of emissions to be paid proportionately by the "causers" of the emissions and "those who reap the benefits."

"Whether or not they see it as a business opportunity, logistics providers will most likely need to track, document and disclose their caused CO2 emissions in the future," states the report.

Tracking carbon emissions may only be the first step, though. "In the more distant future, logistics service providers will need to document all types of emissions, such as noise and nitrogen oxide, in order to measure the full environmental impact of their activities over the long-term."

While regulations will certainly have an important impact on the industry, some of the push towards ensuring sustainable supply chains is likely to come directly from more "eco-aware" consumers who continue to demand greater control over their carbon footprints.

Logistics execs don't think oil will hit $1,000 a barrel
over the next 20 years, but the energy challenges are significant.

(The study didn't reveal whether it surveyed end-users on how much more they're willing to pay for more eco-sustainable goods).

How products get from the assembly line to the consumer is also likely to change. "The heated debate around the balance between different transport modes looks unlikely to cool."

Respondents predict logistics service providers will have to cope with a different transport architecture, such as ultra-larger vehicles, more bundling efforts and ongoing experimentation with modal splits.

Collaboration within and among different modes is also critical to maintaining flexibility. Dubbed "co-opetition", options could include
"sharing warehousing, transport networks, or last mile delivery solutions in crowded urban centres."

As well, respondents anticipate more flexible and efficient usage of transport modes will emerge and "revolutionize" freight transport, such as "autonomous and self-controlled systems such as agent systems and automatic guided vehicles."

Although 60 percent of those surveyed think that consumers will prefer locally produced products by 2030, respondents do not believe that there will be a complete reversal of globalization by 2030.

However, 59 percent think that energy and transportation costs will be the predominate factor in the location of production sourcing. 

The complete study can be read by clicking here.

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