Rethinking construction logistics

CEWales has been finding out from Michael Barratt of Transport for London how construction logistics can be challenged and materials and services moved by zero carbon transport, not just HGVs and white vans

Construction generates huge amounts of carbon and one of the biggest polluters is how the industry moves its goods and materials to and from site. Transport is one of the biggest generators of CO2 and has a massive impact on air quality. If we add into that environmental mix the issue of safety (available figures from 2016 show that 463 people were killed or seriously injured in collisions involving HGVs from all sectors on UK roads) it makes huge sense to reconsider construction logistic.

That's pretty much the role of Michael Barratt for Transport for London. His job title is Development Impact Assessment Manager, which does exactly what it says on the tin. He challenges project teams and works with them to introduce innovative, pragmatic and proactive approaches all geared towards reducing disruption, cutting environmental impacts and make the whole process safer.

It might mean something simple like changing delivery times or introducing a waiting area to stop HGVs queuing on roads unnecessarily or it might be promoting the use of different delivery methods.

One of the most radical ideas is the use of cargo bikes. At first glance that sounds unrealistic but trials with companies such as Mace, FM Conway and Morgan Sindall have proved that power assisted cargo bikes can move materials quicker, more safely and reducing CO2 and in some instances outperform white vans.

Michael Barratt has shared the results of his work with the Considerate Constructors Scheme, and you can see two examples with FM Conway and another with CrossRail. Perhaps more interesting is the work done on a scheme in Hackney, where construction logistics business O'Neill & Brennan Logistics hired Pedal Me to move construction materials on a project for Morgan Sindall.
Barry Mitchell, operations manager said the trial showed that bikes helped cut some costs and saved time: "The speed of the cargo bike deliveries has been incredible. Being able to book them on the same day has assisted us massively when urgently needing certain products. During COVID 19 they have been of huge assistance. Whilst a lot of suppliers furloughed staff and stopped delivering items, we were able to get emergency items delivered same day or within 24 hours. Another reason they are incredibly helpful/positive is because we can utilize them to collect and deliver products and materials between our own projects eliminating the need to use unreliable couriers who in turn are also an expensive service."

Importantly, Barry Mitchell sees a role for cargo bikes in the future on larger schemes. With the help and support of Michael Barratt, Hackney Council and Morgan Sindall, they have created a dedicated cargo bike area on the project site and foresee that being the norm on all jobs. The plan is to buy their own bikes.

Mitchell continues: "Once purchased we are planning on putting one of our operatives through Cargo Bike Training so that we can use the Cargo Bike to collect and deliver products/materials to the project on a full-time basis. This service being supplied by our client means that all subcontractors can use/book Cargo Bike deliveries throughout the project, encouraging the use of Cargo Bikes and reducing the commercial barrier that may be slowing their usage and positive effect on the environment."

This is big thinking. This is what will add an edge to business services if others follow the example of O'Neill & Brennan. Can others do it? Can it work in Wales?

We are asking that question at an event on 23rd February when Michael Barratt will talk about his work and how he helps the construction sector rethink its logistics. Full details will follow.