The MODALES “focus on” interviews continue with an interview featuring IRU‘s Raluca Marian, Director EU Advocacy / General Delegate of the Permanent Delegation to the EU. She explains how IRU used its expertise and knowledge to develop training videos and guidelines to encourage drivers to adapt their driving behaviour to reduce their emissions and save cost, helping to achieve the MODALES vision.

Please describe IRU and its role in MODALES.

“IRU is the world road transport organisation, helping connect societies with safe, efficient and green mobility and logistics since 1948. As the voice of over 3.5 million companies operating mobility and logistics services in more than 100 countries, our work supports trade, economic growth, jobs, safety, the environment, and communities.

IRU advocates for sustainability as a universal and empowering tool to address the climate crisis. Our industry wants to help meet Europe’s climate goals, which entails reducing vehicle emissions.

We are a partner in MODALES, because this project develops innovative and complementary solutions to enhance low-emission practices in all types of on-road vehicles. MODALES allows us to address three main emission sources – the powertrain, brakes, and tyres – and combine them with the driver’s behaviour to create a more sustainable transport sector.

IRU is the project’s designated lead organisation to develop trainings on low-emission driving practices. To this end, we created the MODALES training videos, which build on insights gained in our RoadMasters certification programme and during the IRU Eco-Effects Project. This pilot eco-driving programme in Eastern Europe not only achieved an average 15% fuel use reduction rate among participants, but we also trained over 2,500 drivers and 100 trainers in two years. Since then, there have been technological advances that we can leverage for efficiency gains in emissions reductions, while being committed to expanding our training in different formats and languages.

In addition to specific training products, we are contributing to the development of guidelines on low-emission driving along with awareness campaigns and other dissemination activities. Many drivers are concerned about air pollution without necessarily knowing how much their actions and behaviours can affect vehicle emissions. The findings generated in the MODALES project can empower them to make simple changes with an immediate positive impact.”

What is the added value of IRU in the project?

“Our core members – national hauliers, passenger transport federations and transport operators – and our mission – to represent the interests of road carriers in the EU – provide us with the unique position to bring the sector’s feedback into the project and disseminate the results exactly where they are needed.

In addition, with the IRU Academy and its associated training institutions present in more than 45 countries, we have a proven track record of providing driver training and certifications, which establish professional standards in the transportation sector.”

How will the training for low-emission driving help operators reduce emissions?

“The training IRU developed within the scope of MODALES delivers practical information that is affordable, supported by currently available technology and applicable at all stages of vehicle operations. All of the following recommendations (and more, as seen in the MODALES low-emission training videos, available in different languages here under “videos”) are based on research conducted for the project framework.

Even before they start a journey, drivers can save money and reduce emissions by checking the air pressure and conducting regular maintenance, which increases the lifespan of their tyres. Similarly, planning a trip in advance that avoids traffic and steep roads allows drivers to travel at a steady speed. For goods transport, this type of planning should include delivering heavier loads first and thus avoiding unnecessary weight in the vehicle.

During a trip, drivers can use their navigation system to select well-maintained roads and environmentally friendly routes. Circumventing congested areas and prioritising highways over urban routes minimises frequent acceleration and breaking, as break emissions are one of the major contributors (50%) to non-exhaust emissions from road traffic.

Our training teaches many other driving behaviours that will result in lower emissions and additional cost savings, such as selecting eco-driving mode if available in your vehicle. There are more specific recommendations for truck drivers that cover different traffic and weather conditions – from reducing speed in windy conditions to using the engine break as much as possible, especially when traveling downhill. Modern trucks also do not require idling anymore to “warm up” the engine.

Finally, following the maintenance schedule outlined in the vehicle manual or fleet policy and repairing malfunctions as soon as possible go a long way towards lower emissions and costs.”

How is the road transport sector contributing to the reduction of pollutants in the EU?

“The road transport industry is a reliable partner and stakeholder in the sustainability efforts of the European Union.

The sector is continuously investing in technologies to meet the ambitious objectives of the European Green Deal and Fit for 55 Package. While waiting for the technological maturity and operational readiness of zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles, road transport operators are training their drivers to drive more efficiently to reduce vehicle wear and tear. Adequate driver training translates into fuel savings and an enhancement of fleet maintenance. It also means boosting driver performance and awareness.

European Modular System (EMS) combinations are an additional short-term measure to decarbonise the commercial road transport sector. Encouraging and harmonising the use of EMS for national operations and cross-border services can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 35%, depending on the vehicle combination. Replacing just 30% of the existing commercial vehicles worldwide that are primarily used for regional and long-haul operations with EMS would lead to an immediate emissions reduction of 237 million tonnes of CO2.

IRU consistently advocates for policies and practices that contribute to lower vehicle emissions. In line with this position, our participation in EU-funded research projects such as MODALES supports the overall framework of the European Green Deal as well as the environmental goals of several EU files and legislative proposals.

To complement legislation aimed at reducing emissions – ranging from CO2 emission standards to incentivising alternatively fuelled vehicles – IRU embarked on its own Green Compact, which created a roadmap to decarbonise the road freight and passenger industry by 2050. The partnerships we built in MODALES will inform our continuing efforts in the development of methodologies and indicators to help monitor progress and identify opportunities for more efficient ways to reduce emissions.”