Reduce unnecessary journeys and improve the sustainability of delivery fleets

Posted on Aug 13 2014 - 9:32am by Sustainable News

How back-loading helps reduce unnecessary journeys and improve the sustainability of delivery fleets

UK businesses spend billions of pounds on logistics every year and can make big savings in time, money and carbon emissions by running their fleets in a more sustainable way.

Reduce unnecessary journeys and improve the sustainability

Reduce unnecessary journeys and improve the sustainability

There are many ways to do this:

  • Monitoring CO2 emissions helps identify inefficiencies and aids planning and budgeting;
  • Investment in new technology, such as aerodynamic vehicles, low rolling resistant tyres and automated manual transmissions, can lower carbon emissions;
  • Safe and Fuel Efficient Driving (SAFED), i.e. smooth braking and maintaining correct tyre pressures, improves fuel efficiency; and
  • Adapting route planning and scheduling to maximise vehicle capacity or make more journeys at night when there is less traffic saves fuel and could reduce the number of vehicles needed.

Another method long-used by hauliers is back-loading – matching capacity in empty vehicles with available ‘loads’.

It is estimated that at any time almost one third of heavy goods vehicles on our roads are empty as they return to their depots after having made a delivery. This wastes fuel, money and drivers’ time and adds to congestion on UK roads.

To overcome the problem, a growing number of small businesses, including hauliers, couriers, retailers and farmers, are back-loading. This is not a new concept, but the need to reduce costs and work smarter has made it more popular.

Traditionally, a team of people round a traffic desk would endlessly make calls to find hauliers who had empty space in vehicles travelling between certain locations. In 2000, to streamline the process in his own business, haulage company owner Richard Newbold created an online platform,, that has since become a trusted resource for hundreds of hauliers.

Businesses across the UK can post available ‘loads’ or deliveries on the site and wait until hauliers or couriers contact them to fill their empty return journey. The system also works vice-versa, with couriers and hauliers able to advertise their empty return journeys and the vehicle they’re driving. Businesses can then get in touch with loads that need delivering.

Newbold and his team continue to develop the site with new features, including a user review system and a Returnloads smartphone app that enables drivers to look for loads to pick up from the comfort of their cab. Each day, Returnloads lists 3,000-4,000 loads and vehicles available for matching.

So why should businesses use back-loading? According to Richard Newbold, the main reason is to save money. “One of our regular users last year saved a significant percentage of their running costs by using back-loads, making a big difference to their bottom line,” he said.

Another uses back-loading for around 50 journeys a month, and in doing so has saved approximately £25,000 a year and avoided the need to buy and run its own fleet of vehicles.

Back-loading also has impressive environmental benefits, Defra figures from 2012 show that for every kilometre it travels, an empty articulated 33 tonne+ lorry creates 0.69872 kg of CO2. Driving from Land’s End to John O’Groats in an empty lorry would emit around one tonne of carbon dioxide – comparable to boiling a kettle 20,000 times or driving 3,000 miles in an average petrol car.

“Every business is looking for ways to save money, and making your fleet more efficient and sustainable is a great way to do this,” explained Newbold. “Back-loading is such a simple concept, but many businesses don’t know about it and how easy it now is thanks to technology.”

For more information on ways to make your fleet more sustainable visit:

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