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U.K. drivers share the load

Lorry drivers drive in a convoy along the M6 motorway in protest of high fuel prices.

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: We mentioned the trouble FedEx had last quarter. Well, it's got some company on the road to higher operating costs.

Truckers across Europe have been protesting rising fuel prices, jamming routes and holding up deliveries of food and other goods. Now Britain is trying a different approach: truck sharing.

Today, three dozen companies, including Coke, Tesco, and Nestle, say they'll start sharing delivery trucks in the UK. The move will slash their gas bills and could take some 800 trucks off Britain's roads this year.

From London, Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports.


Stephen Beard: It began as a green initiative. Now it looks more like a smart financial move.

The 37 companies taking part will save at least 6 million gallons of fuel a year -- that's $60 million at today's prices. The companies have agreed to share truck space.

Damien Rees is the Business Editor of the Daily Telegraph.

Damien Rees: If one big UK retailer such as Tesco is sending out trucks full to one distribution centre or store, the idea is they won't come back empty. They may come back with the goods of a rival company.

Some of the companies are more than rivals; they're at each others throats: Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Tesco and Wal-Mart's Asda.

But Tesco spokesman Trevor Datson says with the UK facing the highest fuel prices in Europe, it makes sense to cooperate.

Trevor Datson: We remain fierce competitors on price -- we always will -- but there are some areas that you know you can really pull together and do something quite significant.

Independent haulers may not so keen on the truck-share initiative -- it could well cut into their business. But analysts have welcomed the move with one or two reservations.

Justin Urquart-Stewart is with Seven Investment.

Justin Urquart-Stewart: I think it's a very good idea. I'm actually surprised in terms of costs they haven't actually already done it before. But it's going to lead to the inevitable. You know what's going to happen: The wrong thing's going to end up in the wrong place.

The organizers claim that a pilot scheme went without a hitch and they're urging other companies to join up.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.
Log in to post4 Comments

This idea makes perfect sense and is also gaining attention in continental Europe. There is an important lesson to be learnt from the first collaborative logistics projects: a "neutral referee" is needed to make such partnerships successful. Fair allocation of risks, benefits and costs is crucial and cannot be handled by the participating partners.

I would be hesitant to see the government get involved (unless their role would be as a facilitator). In saying that, though, I could see where the government could cut their costs considerably using this but with their penchant for increasing bureaucracy I fear that they would end up spending $2 to save $1.

How does this work? Can we see a copy of the pilot study? Is there a role for the government to play in getting this started soon?

What will it take for similarly logical steps to happen in the US? Why can't leading companies think about cooperating where they shave carbon emissions, and use that as part of their consumer appeal? I want to know who's taking leadership in sustainability BEFORE gasoline hits $10 per gallon in the US. Thanks for this story.

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