Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Safeway (IT 89)



  Safeway is one of the leading grocery retailers in the UK with annual sales of nearly £7.5 billion. With a fleet of vehicles travelling over 100 million kilometres each year to service 483 stores, Safeway strives to maximise the efficiency of its transport operations, and reduce environmental impacts. There is a determined commitment to implement cost-effective environmental policy compatible with Government thinking on other key environmental issues, such as Sustainable Development and Climate Change, Air Quality.


  There is a determined commitment to implement cost-effective environmental policy compatible with Government thinking on other key environmental issues, such as Sustainable Development and Climate Change and Air Quality.

  Every member of the transport team is charged with achieving ongoing savings in kilometres and fuel and fleet size reductions, as well as increasing the number of cases of product transported versus the total number of kilometres travelled. Demonstrable environmental benefits have been the consequence of this successful strategy.

  Safeway has achieved these environmental gains by consistently being at the cutting edge of logistics best practice. Safeway is currently examining ways of working in partnership with Government to lend its expertise to the development of best transport practice. This includes the possibility of DETR staff "shadowing" Safeway transport focused colleagues.

(a) Cutting Road Kilometres Travelled

    Stores are supplied with products from 17 distribution centres (DCs). In addition, the DC at Tamworth acts as a regional hub for goods in order to minimise the empty running of vehicles. It uses return lorry journeys either as a store delivery or to transport products between depots. The use of consolidation warehousing within Frozen has helped reduce the number of supplier deliveries by up to 25 per cent per week, through improved vehicle utilisation (Appendix 1).

(b) Supplier Deliveries

    Safeway was one of the first retailers to help reduce product movements carried out by suppliers by collecting products from them once store deliveries have been carried out. In 1997-98 Safeway backhauled 61 million cases of product from suppliers in order to avoid them needing to deliver to DCs. This saved 13.3 million kilometres of supplier driving which equated to 13.3 million kilometres of supplier driving, 4.4 million litres of diesel and the avoidance of 11,900 tonnes of CO2.

(c) Food Kilometres

    The Company buys British products whenever possible to reduce the amount of transport involved in import. Of all products sold 85 per cent are UK grown or produced. Regional products are also favoured.

(d) Vehicle Scheduling

    Safeway uses computerised vehicle scheduling, planned twice daily, for deliveries from each of the DCs to stores. Scheduling has become an effective anti-congestion tool for the business.

(e) Satellite Communication for Vehicles

    Safeway was the first major UK retailer to install a satellite tracking system in a bid to tackle congestion (See Appendix 2). By monitoring fuel consumption and vehicle location this improves efficiency and eliminates wasteful vehicle use.

(f) Reduction of Delivery Curfews

    A major way in which Safeway is able to contribute to the alleviation of road congestion is by an increase in night time deliveries. At present over 40 per cent of Safeway stores are affected by night time delivery curfews of between six and 16 hours.

    Curfews add to the congestion problem by requiring more deliveries during peak travelling times, and more vehicles. Stop-start travel during the day reduces fuel economy by about 10 per cent, thereby contributing to local air quality problems. The removal of delivery curfews could see the Safeway tractor and trailer fleet reduce by 15 per cent.

    A number of initiatives have been introduced in order to minimise disturbance to residents. For example quieter Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles are servicing Stores in the London/Home Counties area. Cryogenic freezing (compressed nitrogen) is replacing traditional compressors to reduce noise levels of chilled deliveries.

(g) Rail

    Products such as wine are being transported by rail from Europe. As part of an integrated approach to transport movements, Safeway was the first retailer to move volume products by rail in the UK. In the last 12 months 375 lorry movements have been replaced by rail freight and 131,000 road kilometres have been avoided. The move follows previous trials with Charter Rail and Hallmark running products between Welham Green to Bathgate and Welwyn Garden City to Bathgate.


  Safeway recognises that commercial and environmental best practice are complementary and the business is engaged in a number of activities to reduce the environmental impacts of its transport operations.

  Safeway supports the Government's intention that there be a switch via "carrots" towards fuels that produce lower emissions of particulates and nitrogen oxides and an encouragement over time of cleaner technologies.

(a) Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)

    Safeway operates one of Europe's largest and most advanced HGV fleets running on CNG, servicing over 50 stores in London and the Home Counties out of its Distribution Centre at Welwyn Garden City.

    Safeway decided to establish the trail-breaking fleet in order to satisfy a number of environmental and good neighbour criteria. The aim was to introduce a cleaner, quieter vehicle that was ideal for urban and night time deliveries.

    Tests carried out by Millbrook Proving Ground compared emission levels of two tractor units, namely a CNG and Euro 2 diesel engines running on standard 0.05 per cent sulphur diesel. Results show that the Mobil CNG fuelled vehicles reduced carbon monoxide (CO) by 97 per cent total hydrocarbons (THC) by 81 per cent and reduced Particulate Matter (PM ) by 94 per cent. The CNG vehicle was also four times quieter than a diesel at low engine speeds. Around tick-over the engine was 7 dBA quieter than a diesel.

(b) Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG)

    In February 1997 Safeway became the first European Company to use LPG to power a trailer fridge unit. Roll-out is now underway, benefits have included a reduction in noise levels in excess of 160 per cent compared to conventional diesel fuelling.

    Trials have also been carried out on dual fuel (petrol/LPG) car fleet vehicles.

(c) City Diesel

    Ultra low sulphur diesel is retailed at selected petrol filling stations and is being trialled by the transport division for on-road and off-road applications.


  Safeway is a partner in the National Society for Clean Air (NSCA) Cleaner fuels Forum and has participated in the Government's Greener Vehicles Campaign.

  Best practice initiatives co-ordinated by such organisations as the Freight Transport Association (FTA), British Retail Consortium (BRC), and Confederation of British Industry (CBI) are pro-actively supported by the Company in order to ensure that best practice can be promulgated as widely as possible and so that practical take up is maximised.

  Safeway is committed to reducing the impacts of transport at local level and was a prime instigator of the recently published "Delivering the Goods" Guide (joint initiative by the FTA/Local Government Association (LGA)).

  Safeway is keen to ensure not only that Local Authorities understand the role that the responsible retailer is already playing but that this best practice can be effectively disseminated.


  Safeway also urges that business be involved in any trials that place additional charges on transport. Safeway supports the proposed hypothecation of new revenue for reinvestment in transport infrastructure is supported IF the following principles are successfully applied:

    Transparent and ringfenced.

    Should see simultaneous reductions in conventional based taxation.

    Must involve businesses in any trials.

    Any charging trials must assess the economic, social and environmental implications.

    Be used to positively recognise the innovators by concentrating on the laggards and free-riders.

    Make the fullest use of appropriate technologies.

    Be specific to problems in particular areas, rather than carte-blanche application.


  It should not be forgotten that much of the congestion problem is caused by commuters.

  The majority of our stores are constructed on brownfield sites and in/edge of town. Safeway ensures its stores are situated close to public transport modes. Safeway takes every opportunity to create access for hoppa buses and to provide bus stops close to the store entrance. Bus operators are encouraged to provide services for primary catchment areas, diverting routes if necessary for those people who want to use public transport.

  Lifestyle changes in the last 30 years and particularly increased prosperity have led to a rapid increase in people's aspirations to travel. This is manifested in the way people choose to travel.

  Shopping represents only a small proportion of the use of the car—11 per cent. Shoppers want a large foodstore that offers range, highest quality and good prices. Customers also want to shop in bulk. The weekly shop has become the norm for the average family shopper. The weekly trip equates to a purchase of about 35 kg (80lbs) shopping on each trip. Frozen products and chilled goods spoil very quickly. These commodities coupled with the increased purchase of carbonated drinks in recent years, for example, makes it physically impossible for an adult to carry a week's family shopping!

  Extended trading offers a means to spread traffic movements as well as satisfying demand for the growing number of people wishing to shop outside less congested periods or to fit in with their disparate work and social travelling patterns.

  Safeway also endeavours to reduce traffic levels via its employee programmes. We were delighted to be placed amongst the highest groups of companies by the Environmental Transport Association when it carried out its recent analysis of company policies on employees and transport.

  Safeway advertises jobs at new stores via local job centres and newspapers. On average a store employed 90 per cent of its staff locally. The store management team is generally sourced from existing stores. Training, unless it is very specialised, is carried out locally.

  At Head Office, for example, Safeway encourages employees to switch to alternate modes of transport or smaller cars as well as providing facilities for bicycle storage, changing and showering for cyclists. On site facilities for dry cleaning, shopping, banking and dining avoid the need for travel to neighbouring shopping centres.


  Safeway is currently evaluating other means off reducing transport impacts, including transport sharing, for freight, employees and the consumer. Safeway is committed to working in partnership with local authorities in order to take forward the proposals contained in the Government's integrated transport White Paper for the good of our health and our environment.

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Prepared 28 April 1999