IRTENZ CONFERENCE 2019 - Changing transport to change the world

Monday, June 8, 2020

John Woodrooffe, principal of Woodrooffe Dynamics, discusses optimising transport networks with PBS.

Woodrooffe opened with an inconvenient truth: “We’re in a changing world, there’s more rapid change now than in previous generations and our changes are really fundamental to society. “Today, we’re dealing with the consequences of increased CO2 … it is a very serious moment in our history and it’s gratifying to see how industry is reacting without political pressure. It’s reacting to what it perceives is a threat.” So, how does this tie into the future of PBS? Woodrooffe says that going forward, we need to establish comprehensive PBS metrics with which to communicate the societal costs and benefits of transport. “Current standards really speak to the engineering aspect of vehicle design and the compatibility of the vehicle with infrastructure, either through geometry and vehicle design or through the vehicle dynamic reaction, where a vehicle behaves in a predictable and safe way.” Doing so, says Woodrooffe, enables the rational adjustment of transport policies to optimise benefit. “We want to develop metrics that measure goods movement efficiently, the societal value, and making sure that we’re using our transport system in terms of a network – not just trucks, ships or rail, but optimising the entire flow of the system.” Woodrooffe says that a more efficient and sustainable transport system uses intelligent, science-based policy, where decisions are not made on a particular opinion but on what the data says.

“The policymaking challenge is to encourage successful high-capacity vehicle law. They can do it through some forward-thinking policy instruments, perhaps on the basis of a special permit programme to create the condition that running a high-capacity vehicle is a privilege rather than a right. If permits can be withdrawn, that fosters a heightened sense of priority in the safe and legal operation of these vehicles.” However, high-capacity transport systems are an easy target for criticism and Woodrooffe says the transport industry isn’t getting the message across well enough. He says we need to expand past talking about the truck in isolation and the freight movement as truck centric. “When implementing these programmes it is very important to get the support and collaboration of all stakeholders and use all resources necessary to come up with a solution.

The industry needs to translate the objective benefit of these vehicles into language the general population and politicians can appreciate.” What are those benefits? Woodrooffe cites numerous studies, but the main outcome is that more efficient transport leads to improved transport efficiency, which leads to reduced carbon. “It is important to consider the overall societal value of a well-crafted, high-capacity transport system,” he says, this including a reduction in crashes and casualty from reduced exposure, fuel savings from improved efficiency, and lower emissions output across the board. In an Alberta study conducted about 20 years ago, highcapacity vehicles not only showed improved efficiency, but a five-times improvement in safety as well.


Photo: John Woodrooffe says that the benefits of highcapacity vehicles are not limited to the transport industry, but extend to broader society as well.

“In that case they had very progressive policies that governed the use of those vehicles in such a way that reduced risk. They really focused on that and doing so can achieve some remarkable results,” he says. These included a reduction in fuel consumption and emissions of about 32%, reduced infrastructure consumption (road work per unit) of about 40%, and a reduction in vehicle distance travelled of more than 40%. There is also a proportionate benefit in the reduction of crashes which, Woodrooffe says, would be in addition to the five times reduction shown in the study. In creating a more recent study in the United States, Woodrooffe explored what the consequences to society would be if, through optimising the transport network, transport efficiency could be improved by just 10%. “I had data on truck-related crashes, injuries, fatalities, damage-only crashes, fuel use, and by knowing the prices of all those and the price of a fatality, it rolls out to about $16 billion a year savings in the US.”

He adds that realistic savings from a vehicle component side would be around 13% on tyres, about 10% on aerodynamics, and about 16% regarding the engine. Woodrooffe says that in the future, the focus should move to getting things to work together in the broader transportation system. “The task of transporting goods transcends from a single-mode focus to broader transport system optimisation. “There are concerns about significant modal shift from rail to high-capacity that have not materialised. The idea is you do not want to have a lot of modal transfer when you’re implementing more efficiency. What you’re really trying to do is maximise the capacity of both units and make sure each mode is transporting the best possible way it can.

“In the studies that I’ve seen where high-capacity vehicles have been introduced in intensive railway present countries, we see that the freight is really moving from smaller to larger trucks as opposed from rail to the larger trucks. That sort of proves the merits of this and gets to why we’re working to try and improve the acceptance of these vehicles.” Woodrooffe says this is all very specific to the transportation signature of a country, and that New Zealand is a unique example. “One reason is your single level government when it comes to transport, so you have the ability to do things with less bureaucracy, a better chance of success, and you’re very innovative as an industry.” Woodrooffe also says that the use of high-capacity vehicles needn’t be countrywide but could be specific to geographical areas. “There are different geographies and commercial activities and all of those enterprises require vehicle specialisation to allow some of these industries to succeed,” he comments. “New Zealand is uniquely positioned. It’s going to require a more pragmatic, thoughtful decision-making process based on data. The balance is the local, regional, and global parameters, and some form of sustainable index applicable to all modes of transport,” he says.