How telematics is helping bpost to go electric
Technology is playing a key role in helping bpost, Belgium’s postal service, to reduce its fleet's carbon emissions and smooth the transition to electric vehicles. Majority-owned by the Belgian Government, the company is facing both political and commercial pressure to decarbonise its operations.
In the cut-throat competition of the parcel delivery sector, bpost has to compete with rival logistics firms on speed, quality of service and cost as well as its sustainability performance, said bpost fleet manager Tom Goethals. With its 12,000 vans and 600 trucks covering 170 million kilometres annually, as an diesel fleet the business has a huge carbon footprint.
“We have to develop a sustainable strategy,” Goethals told delegates at the Global Fleet Conference.
This has already seen the company adopt 1,000 electric vans, and it is aiming to have 50% of its fleet electrified by 2025, and 100% by 2030. Its vans are sourced on four-year replacement cycles, so new vehicles are highly likely to be battery powered, and the company is also adopting electric micro-mobility solutions for last mile deliveries - in the centre of the city of Antwerp it is using 19 new e-bikes to tow trailers, while in Mechelen all parcels, letters and newspapers are delivered 100% emission-free through a combination of electric vehicles, cargo bike and trailers, and parcel lockers where customers can collect their packages at a time that is convenient to them, 24/7. Similar projects will be rolled out in at least 25 Belgian cities this year and next.
“We want to be carbon neutral by 2040 for Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions for the whole world,” said Goethals.
Bpost has already achieved a 10% reduction in its carbon emissions by installing an eco-drive system in vehicles that prevents drivers from leaving engines idling while they make deliveries. The eco-driving programme also addresses driving styles that lead to higher fuel consumption and higher emissions. An audio alert signals to the driver incidents of excessive acceleration and speed, and the data is captured and gamified to create league tables of driving performance. Drivers can see how they perform in relation to their colleagues (although data protection means individual names are concealed) with the project using drivers' inherent competitiveness to improve their standing in the league tables. Poor performance is never punished, although drivers who exceed the speed limit are informed of the fines they might face.
“Drivers get a daily briefing with the results of their driving style, and have regular meetings with their managers to debrief their performance,” said Goethals.
In 2018, when the eco-driving scheme was launched, half the drivers achieved a ‘good’ score. This figure has subsequently improved to 90%, while 80% are achieving an ‘excellent’ rating. Goethals is intrigued to see if the scheme will continue to be as effective when drivers switch to electric vehicles.
The principles of good driving behaviour should remain the same, regardless of the powertrain, said Richard Adams, sales director EU of MiX Telematics.
“If you are accelerating harshly you are using more energy, whether that’s petrol, diesel or electricity,” he said. “And you are also putting yourself at higher risk.”
MiX Telematics technology is supporting bpost’s transition to EVs by monitoring vehicle charging and battery state to ensure vehicles start their rounds with sufficient power to complete all of their deliveries.
“Telematics is all about delivering the right data at the right time so you can make the right decisions,” said Adams.
Telematics is also helping bpost with the charging of its electric vehicles as it installs 400 to 500 charge points at its depots every year. The technology facilitates both load and phase balancing on site, so charging demand does not exceed local power capacity, and enables the fleet to prioritise the charging cycles of specific vehicles depending on their operational requirements, and signals an alert if a vehicle that is supposed to be charging is not properly plugged in, so drivers can be confident at the start of every round that they have sufficient battery power to complete their journeys.