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Strategic climate choices

Countering biodiesel with sophisticated logistics

Ghent-based logistics company Tailormade Logistics is installing two tank terminals with biodiesel for its lorries and terminal tractors. With this project and the intermodal map the company drew in 2015, CEO and founder Bert Vandecaveye wishes to reduce the greenhouse effect of his logistics and transport activities by 90 percent by 2025.
 
Tailormade Logistics (TML) was founded in 1996 and quickly evolved into one of the larger logistics and transport companies in the port of Ghent. Through organic growth and various acquisitions, the company now has seventeen logistics platforms in Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Italy and Sweden. The core sectors for which TML offers its logistics and transport activities are fashion, automotive and floor covering.

Environmentally friendly carrier

Bert Vandecaveye has long focused on reducing the ecological footprint associated with the activities of his company. Ten years ago, for instance, he was the first company in Belgium to import an LNG-powered lorry, although this only partially met the ecological aspirations since LNG is also a fossil fuel.
 
There were more ways to 'greener', however. Indeed, in 2015 TML developed intermodal services by using the trains as well as shortsea and inland shipping as much as possible for international transports.
Bert Vandecaveye: “Our strength lies in the fact that we offer a combined lorry/rail, lorry/water solution. It's never a matter of either-or. We also specialize in 'last minute decisions'. When we load the lorry, we consider which mode is most appropriate. Intermodalism is complex and more difficult to organize, but it also offers operational benefits. For example, trains also run on weekends, so that a shipment on Thursday evening is not hindered by the driving and resting time regulations that apply to road transport.


Many companies are sceptical on the matter and we often have to convince customers, but meanwhile 90 percent of our shipments to Italy travel by rail. The fact that there are six weekly rail connections to Milan from Ghent (and soon three to Verona) also helps, of course. But it always remains a bit of a puzzle, partly because you have to reserve a freight slot a few days in advance and some customers simply want to take delivery quickly.”
 
Currently, the intermodal part of TML accounts for about a third of full-freight transports (see 'Multimodal ambitions - Tailormade Logistics transports 60,000 full freights annually. A third of this travels by rail, inland shipping or shortsea. The ambition is to increase this share to 50% over time.).

HVO: a worthy interim solution

At the beginning of this year, Bert Vandecaveye decided to shift his ambitions to reduce CO2 emissions into a higher gear and resolutely opted for HVO, the third generation of biodiesel.
B. Vandecaveye: “I see this to be an interim solution, because the future of course lies with the electric lorry. But for the time being this is not yet a viable alternative for us because of the excessively high purchase price and insufficient battery life. ”
 
HVO (also known as blue diesel) stands for Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil and is made from used vegetable oils (such as frying fat) and residual waste such as animal fats. HVO is therefore fossil-free and offers enormous environmentally friendly benefits. In addition, the latest lorry engines are fully equipped to run one hundred percent on HVO. And since HVO's production process is cleaner, its combustion is also cleaner, resulting in an energy gain of ten percent.

Two major disadvantages: because of the excise duties, this biofuel is twice as expensive as diesel and in Belgium it is not available in large quantities. Bert Vandecaveye counteracts both drawbacks by installing two 25,000-litre HVO tank terminals (in Ghent and Ghlin, near Mons) and by cleverly stocking his logistics platforms.

Strategic location of logistics platforms

Contrary to its carrier peers, Tailormade Logistics in Belgium does not have one single centralized logistics platform, but seven decentralized ones.
B. Vandecaveye: “Belgium is not large, but there is a lot of traffic, so it is more beneficial to have various logistics platforms that are supplied by large lorries at night. These nightly transports are faster and consume less fuel because there are no traffic jams. Deliveries from the logistics platforms are made with smaller distribution vehicles within a radius of up to sixty kilometres. Indeed, we supply the northeast of Brussels and Antwerp from Ghent, the Kempen area, Limburg and Liège from Genk and the south of Brussels, Namur and Charleroi from Ghlin. These locations were mainly devised from the point of delivery for our customers and also from driver availability. We need more than a hundred drivers every day, which you will not find in hotspots such as Antwerp and Brussels.”

Warehouse workers with a driver's license

As a leading player in fashion logistics, TML supplies 70 percent of all clothing stores in Belgium. This equates to 2,150 deliveries per week at 620 different stores. Although 'supply' is weakly expressed; the drivers have the access code to the shops and deliver the clothes between four and eight in the morning. They place the men's clothes in the men's rack, the women's clothes in the women's section, they collect shipments for other branches and a great deal more return freight: packaging waste, printer ink, paint buckets, e-commerce deliveries, etc.
B. Vandecaveye: “In practice, the drivers perform more logistical activities than they drive their lorries and it is here that the HVO concept is such a perfect match. Because, with such activities, the driving (and therefore fuel consumption) only makes up a small portion of the total price, and since HVO driving uses ten percent less, I can limit the additional costs per delivery to seven percent. Of course, they are still additional costs, but some sectors such as fashion are willing to pay for this because this allows them to assure their customers that the goods are delivered in an environmentally friendly manner. We can prove this to them by using an external audit firm that checks and certifies our eco deliveries.
In addition, the seven percent in additional costs can be reduced by examining with the customer whether we can limit the number of deliveries by, for example, delivering three times per week instead of daily. ”
 
Although HVO is a strategic choice for Tailormade Logistics, prompted by a fundamental concern for our climate, the company has also managed to attract new customers with its eco deliveries. For example, a supplier for the Swedish government was only allowed to deliver if he could prove that the transports were carried out with HVO. “As we are currently the only ones who can guarantee this, we deliver five hundred shipments per year from Belgium via shortsea to Sweden,” says Bert Vandecaveye. "The same is true for a new customer in Italy, for whom we load the goods here, drive to the train terminal on HVO, and then load the goods on the train."

Other activities for which TML will use its HVO tanks are the pre- and post-transport of the international intermodal routes and the terminal tractors. The latter are used for own yard management and that of third parties. An electric version is too expensive for this purpose as well and range is too limited.
 
“But let one thing be clear,” emphasizes Bert Vandecaveye, “our choice for HVO is a strategic choice. It does not yield any savings. We might get a few additional customers, but it remains an additional cost and makes our job that little bit more complicated. The choice for HVO was prompted by our desire to do something about the climate, and for now HVO is our answer.
 

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