Features & Interviews

Five minutes with…Gavin Murdoch, Managing Director, Transport, DHL Supply Chain UK&I

20 July 2023 #Features & Interviews

How are DHL’s 16-tonne rigid Volvo electric trucks performing? 

Our 16-tonne electric rigid has been a strong performer over the last two years, completing 50,000km across our retail operation throughout Greater London. We have also added four fully electric 40-tonne tractor units to our operation.

They are capable of 300 km on a single charge and over the summer months have been delivering a performance that has made that range possible on a single charge.

Driver feedback on our electric vehicles has been excellent, with drivability better than that of a diesel, and the quiet operations make for a more relaxed day.

For long-range bigger trucks carrying heavier loads, what is the long-term solution to decarbonisation?

In the long term we need to switch to zero emission technologies such as battery electric and hydrogen, with the latter being more likely for wider piloting and deployment in the years ahead.

As battery technology improves so rapidly, OEMs are suggesting that the share for battery could be larger than first thought, but we expect hydrogen will still be required for the heaviest, and longest drive cycles in commercial transport.

Our largest challenge is likely to lay with infrastructure, which for electric has some way to go in order to support the transition for cars and then vans, before being able to support the vast battery capacity needed for heavy commercial vehicles. In addition, infrastructure solutions need to be sought to make hydrogen viable.

The challenges aren’t deterring us from making changes now though and switching to low carbon fuels now is an essential part of our decarbonisation strategy. This means working with a range of fuels such as Bio-LNG, Bio CNG and HVO with the fit being determined by operational type, weight and range, as well as access to fuel on-site or within the public network.

Tell us about DHL’s EV charging infrastructure at depots in the UK?  

Within DHL Supply Chain, we have started operating our vehicles with AC charging, working at speeds of up to 43 kWh which allows us to charge vehicles overnight. This aligns with our approach to use the vehicles on single shift applications, enabling us and our operators to better understand the performance and limitations of the trucks before we look to increase utilisation.

We have some wider experience implementing DC fast charging across the group both in the UK and abroad and to date almost all projects have featured challenges with available power at sites to implement more than a few DC fast chargers.

Capacity at sites and from the grid into logistics campuses is going to be an ongoing challenge within the UK and we are engaging with government on this.

How easy is it to attract quality drivers in the UK?

We have come a long way since 2021 but it’s important that we continually raise the profile of careers in logistics including driving roles. We operate a dedicated Transport Development Centre (TDC) at Crick in Northamptonshire which we use to run Driving Ambition, our training programme which provides fully funded training for applicants to qualify as LGV drivers.

The TDC takes people through the total driving training experience from medical checks to driving theory and practical training in a real cab then finally testing.

Since launching in 2021, more than 600 people have obtained their LGV licences through the TDC and 93% of people who have gone through that scheme are still with us.

Gavin Murdoch, Managing Director, Transport, DHL Supply Chain UK&I

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