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Study wants to help reduce CO2 emissions in road freight transport
Author: Corporate Communication / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie [Alec Basson]
Published: 23/01/2020

As the primary method for freight transportation in South Africa, road freight (excluding passenger freight) emits approximately 16,8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually, making it the second-largest contributor to carbon emissions after electricity. One way to reduce these carbon emissions is to put in place a road freight decarbonisation framework that's specifically developed for our local context- 

This is according to Business Analyst Dr Lee-Anne Terblanche who obtained her doctorate in Logistics Management at Stellenbosch University recently. She developed the first-ever road freight decarbonisation framework for South Africa that transport companies and policy-makers can use to decrease CO2 emissions.

“Given the necessity to lower carbon emissions, the framework will provide companies and policy-makers with guidelines on how this can be achieved and what areas to focus on," says Terblanche.Terblanche1.jpg

To develop the decarbonisation framework, Terblanche interviewed experts and managers in the road freight industry and also asked them to complete questionnaires. Altogether 132 registered road freight companies took part in her study.

Terblanche's framework identified four key decisions a company had to make when it came to road freight transportation and all of them can influence the amount of carbon emissions being released. The framework also quantified how much carbon emissions each of these decisions contributed to the total road freight emissions in South Africa. These decisions revolve around a move from road freight to rail, the efficiency of the logistical route or network, operational and mechanical efficiency and a culture of compliance with the Road Transport Management System (RTMS – an industry-led self-regulation scheme).

The four key decisions were broken down to nine smaller carbon variables to highlight how each of these variables contributed to total road freight carbon emissions. These include, among others, missed slot or delivery times, hijacking, theft (leading to unplanned trips and thus more carbon emissions), empty loading (trucks returning empty to its warehouse after a day's deliveries have been done), unnecessary trips, mechanical efficiency of trucks and driving behaviour (for example, do drivers make the best decisions in terms of idling the truck, accelerations, the use of cruise control, making unplanned or unauthorised stops, etc.)

Terblanche says that carbon emissions can be decreased considerably if companies pay closer attention to these aspects.

“If companies in South Africa focus on these core aspects, our carbon emissions in road freight can decrease by a staggering 46%. This number only shows how inefficiently we operate our road freight.

“The largest reduction potential of carbon emissions and road freight kilometres lies within the logistical network efficiency decision-making influences, which may reduce carbon emissions by 27%. A shift to rail can contribute to a 7,5% reduction, while operational efficiency can contribute to a 20% reduction.

“Should all the influences be implemented at once to achieve synergy, a total calculated carbon saving of 7,7 million tonnes of CO2 can be achieved along with a reduction of 7,36 billion road freight kilometres," adds Terblanche.

Highlighting the value of the decarbonisation framework, Terblanche says it is now possible to identify where the most potential for carbon emission decrease within road freight in South Africa lies and what measures can be taken to decrease these emissions.

“This is important if we take into consideration that road freight traffic is projected to increase to one million freight vehicles on our roads by 2050 with Gauteng set to experience most of the increase due to the economic activities in the province."

Terblanche says road freight companies, policy-makers and local and international researchers will benefit most from her study.

  • Main photo: A road freight transport truck. Credit: Pixabay
  • Photo: Dr Lee-Anne Terblanche


Dr Lee-Ann Terblanche

ICT Business Analyst: Supply Chain





Martin Viljoen

Manager: Corporate Communication

Stellenbosch University

Tel: 021 808 4921