My name is Nick Dooner the owner of Luckings. We supply transport and warehousing to the theatre sector and it’s obviously the ‘trucking’ side of our business which has impact upon the sustainability of theatre touring and indeed the world we all live in. There has been a great deal of media coverage and debate upon CO2 emissions and there are two camps– those who believe in the damage being caused and those who sit back and say “Well global warming isn’t here yet”.
The problem is that there is no clear indicator of what may come but what is certain is that weather patterns are changing and we don’t really know why. So wait and if needed act later (when it may be too late) or consider and do something now. This is the question we all have to answer. As humans we avoid risk – we wear seat belts, we put on sun block, some of us will not walk under ladders. My belief is that if we can, why not do a little something now that might reduce the risk of the unknown.
Over the last 3 years as a company we have looked closely at our operation and have implemented a programme of change which we believe will make a difference. Even with our small fleet we can help change happen. Even if the whole thing proves to be a storm in a tea cup and no more than shifting weather cycles at least we have made a positive contribution.
So what have we done?
Over several years now we have been upgrading our vehicle fleet with newer and cleaner vehicles. The most recent batch of EURO 5 compliant Tractor units added to our fleet in October 2009 were some of the first in the UK and some of the cleanest. In simplistic terms we have more modern engines. These convert the chemical potential energy within diesel into kinetic energy in a more efficient manner, giving us greater fuel efficiency, reducing the omissions whilst covering the same miles.
The increased performance might seem negligible with at best a 1.2 mpg improvement but with some previous trucks completing just 8 miles per gallon the percentage increase of 15% is huge. For a truck covering an average 1200 miles per week over a five year life, the benefit in reduced emissions output as a result of less fuel burned to cover the same mileage is impressive with 4715 less gallons of fuel burned per truck.
To calculate the emissions from a gallon of fuel the ratio of the molecular weight of the CO2 to the molecular weight of the carbon is compared. One gallon of diesel leads to an approximate emission of 2.66kg/litre or 22.2lb/gal. Thus if we ran the figures on our emissions from the bulk of our fleet 3 years ago against our newer trucks today, over a 5 year life, one of our trucks would be responsible for Co2 emissions of 865,000lbs then against the now reduced figure of 770,000 lbs - a saving of nearly 100,000 lbs of Co2 emissions per truck in 5 years. It doesn’t take much to see why it is that as a pollutant, the transport sector gains so much publicity.
Unfortunately Road transport contributes to reductions in air quality. As far as we can - in keeping up with technology we have done our bit so far and we will do more as technology improves.
We have a policy of buying the latest engines and we opt for the ad blue option which limits the nitrogen oxides and particulate matter which pose even greater health and environmental problems. The nitrogen oxides are emitted gases that contain one molecule of nitrogen and varying of oxygen – this is the fog forming smoke that billows from power stations. The particulates are fine particles of discrete mass (solid and liquid) unburned suspended in emissions. DANGEROUS STUFF WHEN INHALED.
With the ad blue our trucks reduce these emissions by 80%. By reducing the harmful gases which we all inhale it will reduce health problems. This in turn could reduce trips to the doctor/hospital or ambulance journeys – it’s a snowball effect and the indirect benefits outside touring theatre shows is a further reduction in the number of vehicle miles driven.
To run to this high standard we need to input a cleansing additive called Ad Blue (UREA/ Demineralised Water). At up to £4.50 a gallon it is not cheap but as with everyone we have a choice of whether to talk about things or to take action. We cover this cost and do not charge it on, so in real terms as a company we pay circa £10 for each 100 gallons of fuel or 900 miles driven. It’s all in the numbers but for every ten trucks on the road – circa £7000 per year is our little pay back towards a cleaner environment.
Maybe not a great deal you might think but please don’t forget the cost of a newer and cleaner engine. A new truck can cost us £60-£70,000. You will all be aware that all that glitters is not gold so perhaps you might consider these facts when you see older trucks pulling theatre shows around the country – a tractor unit with a splash of paint pumping out toxic chemicals might save the transport budget a few hundred pounds in comparison to companies like mine but we are trying to do what we believe is right. Money is money and for those who believe the bottom line is more important - hopefully a viewpoint of “it’s not really important to us” will be compensated by those who would rather avoid the risk of the unknown.
In Tudor England strolling players toured the country performing plays in barns and the courtyards of Inns. The government of the day did not approve for fear of rebellion (Robin Hood was the voguish play of the day) or spread of the plague. In 1572 a law was passed banning touring theatre. God forbid the past repeats itself and we are accused of spreading ill health through lack of green initiatives.
In saying this every cloud has a silver lining and actually within two years after the outlawing of touring theatre the reigning monarch Elizabeth had granted 4 noblemen the right to set up permanent theatre companies. By 1577 the first permanent theatre in London had been established and by 1595 several were running with 15000 people attending weekly. Plays were needed to satisfy this thirst and thus stepped forward a young play right a certain Mr. William Shakespeare.
So in reality the West End theatres and all other provincial houses are the descendants of touring theatre. Surely it is therefore only right that we all work together, whether from a static base or traversing the roads of our country to sustain theatre on tour, one of the most important elements of this wonderful industry as theatre access to all must continue.