London-based recycling business First Mile has taken action to ensure its fleet is ready for April’s Ultra Low Emission Zone as it continues to roll out cleaner vehicle tech.
Founded in 2004 to provide easy recycling services for businesses, First Mile works for 14,000 businesses in the UK and is focused on environmental goals, including zero-emission deliveries. Already, in central London, First Mile operate 150 zero emissions deliveries a day through its new electric vans and its first cargo-bike and is also on a mission to electrify its whole fleet.
It’s also optimised route optimisation programmes to determine the most fuel-efficient route for the collection and delivery vehicles. Additionally, all vehicles are fitted with telematics to deter heavy breaking, fast acceleration and idling.
The firm is also driving efficiency through other measures, including deploying its central London waste sorting depot, located in Park Royal, which has further reduced emissions.
Commenting on the firm’s actions, Bruce Bratley, founder and chief executive of First Mile, said: “For businesses like ours with a fleet of over 70 vehicles operating in city centres, turning the fleet green is a substantial investment, but one that is absolutely necessary. As a leading sustainability company, we wouldn’t be staying true to our values or providing the green service that we promise to our customers if we didn’t. All businesses have a responsibility to minimise their impact on the environment, and reducing toxic emissions that poison the environment and the air we breathe is a big part of that.
“We knew we had a backstop of 8 April with London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone, so we systematically upgraded our fleet in order to be ready for that date. We started updating the fleet to Euro 6 three years ago and have been gradually replacing our older fleet. Euro 6 vehicles have much larger exhaust systems which initially lead to some chassis configuration issues whereby the payload we could carry was less. We worked closely with the engineers at DAF who quickly reconfigured our chassis to accommodate a larger body. This was very important to us because we want to ensure full vehicle utilisation to reduce emissions per tonne of waste collected.
“First Mile were early adopters of Euro 6 trucks and all the manufacturers we used experienced issues with the emissions control units, and subsequent engine issues such as overheating. These issues now seem to be resolved and we are getting back to the reliability we expect from leading OEMs like DAF, Mercedes and ISUZU.
“Our next goal is operate zero-emission collection vehicles which would be ideal for our central London rounds. We have trialled several vehicles, but unfortunately the technology for these trucks is not yet ready and manufacturers have unreasonable expectations on price and usage. For example, we operate all our diesel fleet at least 18 hours per day (2 shifts), which is not feasible for a battery powered vehicle as there is no time available for charging. Currently electric vehicles cost almost double that of diesel, and if we were only able to operate on single shifts, our current fleet would cost four times as much to acquire and there would be a significant cost in terms of embedded carbon in vehicle and battery production. However, we would love to hear from any OEMs with new tech they want to test in a harsh operating environment!”