Business & Logistics

In touch with nature.

Everyone living in Switzerland builds up a close bond with nature, say Hans-Peter and Daniel Dreier. The logistics operators do a lot for its conservation. One reason is the growing desire of customers to reduce their carbon footprint. The new Euro VI Actros helps the company Dreier achieve this goal.

“Advantages for tenders.” Daniel Dreier, shown here at Lake Lucerne in Central Switzerland, swears by Euro VI Actros trucks.

The turquoise-blue water of Lake Lucerne in Central Switzerland glistens in the rays of sunlight that fall gently across the valley. As a few yachts sail serenely, a slight band of clouds in the background envelop the snow-covered mountain peaks. Further down the slopes, dairy cows graze on the alpine pastures between the idyllic small villages.

“Isn’t that brilliant? I must tell my cousin about it,” Daniel Dreier enthuses. The co-owner of the Swiss logistics company of the same name is driving his New Actros along the Lucerne-bound lane of motorway 2. He’s just returned from a trip of about 200 kilometres, which also took across the steep serpentine roads of the Gotthardt route.

At this particular moment, Daniel Dreier’s fascination is not for the picturesque alpine panorama, but for the display behind his steering wheel: “27.4 litres per 100 kilometres – that’s a fantastic figure.”

At the Dreier warehouse in Härkingen, Hans-Peter Dreier awaits his cousin. He’s glad about the low consumption figures too, not only because it’s going to save the company fuel and cut costs. “We’re trying to keep the impact on the environment to a minimum,” stresses the managing director, who runs the family-owned business in the third generation. He shares this ambition with the Swiss state and with the company’s customers. They show a growing interest in CO₂-reduced transportation.

Hans-Peter Dreier is a pragmatist rather than an idealist. In his view, the discussions about climate change and melting glaciers are often too emotionally charged. Nevertheless, he says: “We Swiss and nature live in a very close bond, so we must fight for its conservation.”

For a Swiss logistics company, this attitude is to a certain extent vital for survival. In hardly any other country are the statutory regulations as strict as in the alpine Republic. Between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., for example, only postal and fresh-food deliveries are allowed. All other transportation is subject to a ban on night-time driving. In addition, vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of more than 3.5 tonnes have to pay the performance-based heavy vehicle fee (LSVA). This fee is calculated on the basis of mileage, the gross vehicle weight and the vehicle emissions. It is charged per every kilometre on all roads in Switzerland, as opposed to the German truck toll, for example, which is only charged on motorways. Environmental protection is sometimes an integral part of public tenders. Awarding the contract for the redevelopment of Zurich Airport which begins this year, for example, was subject to the condition that only trucks with at least Euro V engines must be used.

The company Dreier has definitely been feeling the impact of these measures. The costs for the LSVA charge alone amounts to between 800,000 and 900,000 Swiss francs per month, the equivalent of around 650,000 to 730,000 euros (550,000 to 620,000 pounds). Nevertheless, Hans-Peter Dreier appreciates why the strict stipulations are necessary: “It is right that Switzerland as a highly developed country should make a greater contribution to environmental protection than others.”

This conviction finds its expression in almost all areas of activities of the company Dreier – from paper printed on both sides through to the organisation of the roughly 200 vehicles in the truck fleet. The family-run firm was one of the first Swiss logistics companies to decide in favour of the New Actros with the low-emission Euro VI engine. Now, it has 44 of these vehicles in operation. Even though Euro VI does not become mandatory until the end of 2014, the investment is already paying off, Dreier emphasises. Euro VI vehicles have to pay much less LSVA: whereas a Euro V truck pays the equivalent of just under 0.74 euros per kilometre, a Euro VI vehicle “only” needs to pay 0.66 euros. Working on the assumption of a realistic monthly mileage of 10,000 kilometres, this adds up to a difference of around 750 euros per month per vehicle. For the 44 Euro VI New Actros this means that the company Dreier saves 33,000 euros per month. “From 2016, when the Euro VI trucks fall into an even lower category, this will mean in one go that the early investment in Euro VI has paid off,” says Hans-Peter Dreier.

Successful overnight service on short distances. Switzerland has a general ban on night-time driving for most trucks. Dreier has become a specialist for the efficient use of swap bodies in intermodal transport, which is yet another contribution by the company towards better environmental protection and fewer CO₂ emissions. The economical trucks with the three-pointed star take on pre- and post-rail transportation.

Dreier also tries to lower CO₂ emissions and costs via fuel consumption. Since 2003, the company has been using FleetBoard in its trucks. The FleetBoard “scores” are now part of the bonus system for the drivers. Two trainers employed by the company itself help to further optimise these figures. In addition, the speed of the trucks is restricted to 84 kilometres per hour – a move which also lowers consumption and thus CO₂ emissions.

“In the beginning, some employees had their problems with these measures. But the scepticism has now vanished. Through FleetBoard the drivers are motivated to achieve results that are as good as possible. And thanks to the maximum set speed of 84, they are much more relaxed after work,” says Dreier. The logistics specialist goes even one step further. “You could say, of course, that transportation is at its most environmentally friendly when it’s not carried out at all,” he remarks. So Dreier tries to simply reduce the volume of traffic caused by the company’s transportation activity. A total of 21 double-decker trailers are now in operation. On two loading areas, one on top of the other, each level with an interior height of 1.83 metres, up to 50 per cent more RX boxes and even up to 60 per cent more europallets can be transported than when using conventional trailers. “With the double-deckers, we can therefore cover the loading capacity of three conventional vehicles,” the CEO explains.

This form of transportation is particularly suitable for the comparatively light, but high (1.80 metres) rolling containers of the Swiss Post, Dreier’s biggest customer. Its package centre including the rail terminal is located just a few metres away from Dreier’s Härkingen branch. This is no coincidence. The haulage company is one of the first in the “railway country” Switzerland to build on intermodal transport via trucks and rail, internationally as well as nationally. “For us, this has the advantage that we can transport our goods round-the-clock despite the ban on night-time driving,” Dreier stresses. Only Swiss Post packages were initially transported. Now, other firms, including C&A and H&M, also take advantage of the possibility of circumventing the night-time driving ban by using the environmentally friendly combined rail-and-road transport of the Swiss Post.

Around 40 swap bodies are transported six times a week at night by the Swiss Post trains to various parts of the country. Dreier, for example, was been able to lower CO₂ emissions on the East-West axis and on the North-South axis by 960 tonnes in 2012. This pays off, as state subsidies are granted for projects that demonstrably reduced CO₂ emissions.

“We do a great deal to keep the environmental impact to a minimum,” says Hans-Peter Dreier, who describes his company as an “eco-logistics specialist”. These measures, of course, were not merely introduced out of idealism, but are also the result of cost calculations. Fewer CO₂ emissions mean lower fuel consumption and thus lower costs. In addition, intermodal transport enables Dreier to shorten transport times and to reduce LSVA payments. This way, the company is able to strengthen its competitiveness. Dreier knows too: “At the end of the day, it is the price that matters most for the customers.”

Commitment to the environment will become increasingly important for companies. Swiss Post, for example, has plans to lower CO₂ emissions by a further 15,000 tonnes by the end of 2013. The retailer Coop, another Dreier customer, aims to become CO₂-neutral by the year 2023. “As logistics companies, we obviously have an obligation here,” the managing director emphasises.

Intermodal transport is the prerequisite in order to meet this obligation, he adds. This would be the only way to reduce the environmental impact without jeopardising competitiveness. Why are other countries such as Germany not following this example? Hans-Peter Dreier has to ponder for a moment: perhaps this is due to geographical aspects. Because of the size involved, intermodal transport would undoubtedly be more difficult to implement. “But perhaps,” says the man from Switzerland, who had experienced himself how the glaciers right on his doorstep had slowly receded, “the pain threshold has simply not yet been reached in Germany.”

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