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£67m for the Sustainable Distribution Fund has been announced, to help the freight industry reduce costs and cut emissions.

The money will be targeted at increasing the use of rail and water transport where current schemes support the removal of over one million lorry journeys each year. It will also be used to help hauliers and freight operators cut costs and be more fuel efficient, reduce emissions and cut road congestion.

Freight Best Practice is one of the programmes to benefit, with funding increasing from £1.2 million to £1.5 million a year. Between 2005 and 2006 the industry saved £83 million with the help of the scheme, and saw CO2 savings of 240,000 tonnes.

Jim Fitzpatrick said: “This £67 million is a vote of confidence from the Government in the freight industry. As more freight is transported by rail or water it will bring clear benefits for the economy, the environment and other road users.

“We want to help hauliers and van drivers continue to improve their operational efficiency and reduce costs. Freight Best Practice and smarter driving techniques have already helped companies make real savings. We are making these more widely available so that more businesses can benefit.”

Since it started in 2003, the Safe and Fuel Efficient Driving (SAFED) programme has given around 12,000 truck drivers and 8,000 van drivers training in how to save fuel and improve driving techniques. It focuses on simple measures, such as watching speeds, accelerating and braking more smoothly, and checking tyre pressures. Van drivers who completed the course achieved an average 16% reduction in fuel use on the day.

More importantly, long-term fuel savings can also be significant. Drivers from major freight haulier Turners (Soham) Ltd reported fuel consumption savings between 5% and 10% after using the SAFED course.

Van Best Practice received £300,000 from this year’s Sustainable Distribution Fund, and this is set to double to £600,000 a year as a result of the recent announcement. A new Van Best Practice programme will also be funded to 2011, with thousands more drivers and companies set to benefit from efficiency best practice information.