Opinion

Better roads means a better world

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has challenged the transport sector to “reshape the world's transport systems for a cleaner, safer and more sustainable future”.  His call to action comes a couple of months before world leaders get together in Paris in France to thrash out a new climate change deal. 

Speaking at the International Transport Forum (ITF) 2015 Annual Summit, Ki-moon also urged transport professionals to be champions within their industry and urge others to commit to a new, sustainable transport future. Mr Ban Ki-moon may not be a regular reader of Fleet Europe, but he's got my support. The corporate fleet industry needs to stand up and be counted when it comes to sustainable development and climate change. 

We need to get creative, support cutting edge technology and add our collective weight to initiatives that will make a difference. I'm waving the flag for change. And I'm not the only one in our industry that is doing so Mr Ban Ki-moon. The corporate fleet industry has backed low emissions engine technology at a policy level and through fleet procurement. We've waded into debates about corporate responsibility, set targets to reduce emissions and delivered on these promises. Today the fleet TCO wouldn't be complete with consideration of carbon and sustainability. We've come a long way in a short space of time.   

I'm not saying that we've got it licked. There's a lot more to be done. And now is the time to get behind strategic transport initiatives that drive big picture change. We - the fleet community - are an important stakeholder in the transport network. So let's start debating how infrastructure can be business and climate friendly. 

One way of ensuring environmental protection is building better roads. Yes, you read that right. I've heard the arguments that building more roads only leads to more congestion. What I'm saying is we should be building better roads. I'm talking about intelligently designed, well-built and well maintained roads that support smart cities, smart transportation and smart mobility. 

I'm talking about total transformation of transport infrastructure. A transformation that supports low carbon growth and low carbon (or even zero carbon) motoring. A transformation that supports shared mobility in cities, mass transit systems and new mobility concepts that have sustainability built into the design process. Simple changes like cleverly designed roads can shorten distances travelled and smooth traffic flow.  Investment in road surfaces, which impact vehicle comfort and performance, also have an impact on emissions. Savings all add up - both cash and carbon.

Add into the mix intelligent transport systems and a whole new world of opportunities opens up. With smart tech our road conditions can be pro-actively managed to make driving smarter, safer and more sustainable. It's a classic example of the triple bottom line that environmental advocates have long talked about. We, in the transport sector, can make it a reality.

And just imagine a road network that could harness the energy from vehicles travelling on its surface. Retrieved energy could be used to power road infrastructure or even other cars. Far-fetched science fiction? No.  It technically is possible. And the technology exists. The challenge is creating the conditions for innovations like this to thrive. I wonder how it could impact the TCO of a fleet of vehicles, but I'm pretty sure it will have a positive effect

This is where you come in. We all have a responsibility to act. You can look at your in-house fleet and make a difference. You can advocate change in the supply change to make a difference. You can support the automotive industry bring low carbon models to market through carbon conscious procurement practices. You can lobby for wider strategic changes to the transport network. You can choose to do all this and more.

We can do something to make a difference. What is it that the fleet community can do and how can the team at Fleet Europe help to make it happen? Let us know and let's get together at the Fleet Europe Forum 2015 and talk about how, together, we can make it happen.   

Authored by: Steven Schoefs