For the wood energy sector in Ireland to be competitive, biomass must be delivered to the energy plant or end user at the lowest cost possible, and transport plays an important role along the forest supply chain . Several modes of transportation are used in the forestry sector and truck transportation is and will remain the most important mode of timber transport in Ireland, forming a substantial part of the industry's raw material cost and having a major influence on the sector's overall economic performance and competitiveness .
Woody biomass bulk nature, moisture content and handling difficulties are major factors in the overall cost of transportation . Forest haulage can be responsible for 20% to 40% of the total supply chain costs [3–5]. Even small increases in efficiency can significantly reduce costs. Therefore optimisation of the transport system is crucial for the forest energy economic success.
There is a considerable interest worldwide in new work procedures, decision support systems, equipment configurations and road-truck interactions that can lead to reductions in overall transportation costs.
The goal of this project is to remove one of the barriers to economic forest biomass development by minimising biomass transportation costs and therefore optimising the supply chain. This will be achieved by adopting a systems approach that develops integrated solutions using new equipment configurations, work procedures, understanding of road-truck-driver interactions, understanding of product-payload interactions, and decision support systems.
Several modes of transportation are used in the forestry sector and truck transportation constitutes an important part of the supply chain. In Ireland, road transport is and will remain the most important mode of timber transport, forming a substantial part of the industry's raw material cost and having a major influence on the sector's overall economic performance and competitiveness . Truck haulage is one of the most visible forestry operations and has come under increasing scrutiny by local authorities and the public .
The transport of woody biomass from the forest to the industries is carried out by trucks of different makes and models. The difference is usually given by the number of axles, weight of the truck, and the engine position in relation to the front axle. All European countries impose haulage regulations related to the restriction on dimensions and weight of the trucks. The Code of Practice for Road Haulage of Round Timber in Ireland describes the different truck configurations used in the forestry sector and their maximum weights based on the Road Traffic (Construction and use of Vehicles) Regulation .
In terms of dimensions, the maximum width of any vehicle with a gross weight greater than 3.5 tonne is 2.55 metres, and together with its load the maximum width is 2.9 metres.
|Vehicle type||Maximum length (m)|
|Combination of vehicles||18.75|
The weight of trucks is monitored at weighbridges and overloaded trucks incur penalties, normally of a financial nature or ban on delivering timber for a specified period of time. However travelling to the nearest weighbridge is not always practicable .
Permissible driving hours can have major implications for vehicle scheduling and route planning. The geographical spread of forests and of processing plants, coupled with the variable nature and quality of forest and public roads, often requires long journey times . A driver can drive for a maximum of 9 hours in one day. This can be increase to 10 hours twice a week, and after 4 hours and thirty minutes driving, a driver must take a break of 45 minutes. This break may be replaced by breaks of at least 15 minutes based on the tachograph legislation (Statutory Instruments 392 and 393 of 1986).
Over one third (178,000 ha) of the existing forest in Ireland are on peatlands and are served by basic road infrastructure of flexible road pavements, these pavements exhibit fast and severe deterioration under the heavy truck transportation associated with transport . Depending on their location, public roads are the responsibility of the National Roads Authority (NRA) or the Local Authorities Routes are agreed with Local Authorities in order to prevent road damage; permission is also needed when opening new entrances or widening existing entrances to the forests . National and Regional roads are exempt of permission since they can bear the maximum legal GVW of the trucks.