Green Thinking – Our LSO Truck

Great Big Green Week

As a part of the Great Big Green Week – a nationwide celebration of action on climate change, taking place across the UK from Saturday 18 to Sunday 26 September – the LSO staff team and members are taking time this week to think, act and learn more about eco-friendly practises, both within and outside of the LSO.

Orchestral touring (now more possible than it was a few months ago) is something that we are looking into as an organisation to explore how we can restart our touring in the most sustainable way possible. We’re learning lots from Julie’s Bicycle and peer organisation initiatives. We wanted to tell you about how our LSO truck forms a part of our eco initiatives.

Meet Lennie, the LSO Truck

The LSO stage management team in front of the LSO truck

Lennie, the LSO truck, and its proud drivers: (former) Stage Manager Neil, Operations Manager Alan, Stage Manager Nathan

The LSO truck and its trailer outside the Barbican Centre

The truck and its baby trailer outside the Barbican Centre

The LSO’s Truck, Lennie, named after Lennox Mackenzie OBE who served as the Orchestra’s Chairman for 16 years, is a vital part of the LSO’s equipment. The LSO’s truck enables large and high-value instruments to be transported to concert venues across the UK and internationally, helping us share the LSO’s music-making around the world. Purchased in October 2016, the LSO’s truck meets Euro 6 standards, which is the highest standard of ecological features currently available on the market for heavy goods vehicles, including ultra-low carbon emissions (ULEZ compliant) and low fuel consumption. More on Euro 6 here for vehicle enthusiasts!

The truck also uses a ‘hush kit’, most commonly used in aviation, meaning it has extra noise insulation installed in various places, with slight changes to the body work and special tyres. By being low noise, Lennie has special permissions for driving in some countries, such as Austria, at night as he doesn’t disturb anyone. Lennie lives at the LSO’s Warehouse when he’s not in use across the globe.

The LSO truck also has a low consumption, low emissions small engine built into it to regulate the temperature in the cargo bay, ensuring that high-value instruments do not get damaged when being transported around. When instruments get too hot or cold, it can risk damaging them.

The LSO truck outside LSO St Luke's

The LSO truck parked outside LSO St Luke's

The majority of the truck was built by Scania, and the body of the truck is made from aluminium, which was an optional extra the LSO decided on when purchasing the vehicle. The team chose aluminium because it is a lot lighter, and therefore offers a better fuel consumption. The LSO purposefully engaged with the company Oakley Horseboxes, a highly renowned business for crafting quality horseboxes and transporters, to build some of the truck’s bodywork. This was to ensure that the truck would be a long-term investment, staying on the road for the longest possible time, boosting its efficiency in this way. The LSO’s previous truck lasted for nine years, and we hope that the current truck will last for 12 years.

Lennie is also a very cyclist-friendly truck. The LSO had a 360 degree camera installed in order to be able to spot vulnerable road users who would otherwise be in a blind spot for the truck. The truck also has an audible vehicle manoeuvring warning alarm which alerts road users when the truck is about to turn or reverse, making it less dangerous for those people choosing to use completely green transport, e.g. cycling, around the city and beyond.

Where possible, when performing smaller chamber works around London, smaller vehicles are hired instead of using the LSO’s 18-ton truck, to reduce our carbon footprint further. In addition, on LSO tours where feasible, percussion instruments are hired locally to avoid freighting by air or road.

What about electric?

The LSO’s truck is the best truck we could have that suits the LSO’s purposes. Having an electric vehicle would not be practical. As an example, we recently toured to Bucharest in Romania for the Enescu Festival. The distance from the Barbican Centre to the Enescu Festival is approximately 1,600 miles (2,575 kilometres). Hypothetically, if we were to drive this distance non-stop to Bucharest (!), this journey would take c.28 hours. Looking now at Scania’s newest range of fully electric haulage trucks, launched in September 2020, the battery life of their largest 300kWh battery pack can be expected to hold the energy in one charge to travel up to 155 miles (250 kilometres), with a charging time of approximately 65 minutes for this battery pack. This would mean the same journey to Bucharest with a fully electric vehicle would require over 10 battery charges, adding an extra c.12 hours onto the journey. This also doesn’t take into account that there isn’t the appropriate infrastructure to charge a vehicle like this along the journey. Recharging the vehicle that many times would likely also result in using more energy, creating larger carbon emissions, costing far much more, and taking more time. It’s worth saying this would also make life quite difficult.

Why not think about a hybrid vehicle then, you might say? Well, one thing to consider is that trucks that are hybrids have dual engines, meaning they have both an electric engine and can also run off fuel. For long journeys, this would result in larger carbon emissions, because the weight of the truck is increased by its need to carry two engines on board, meaning that the fuel economy would be worse.

What’s after the Euro 6 emission standards then? Currently, Euro 7 emission standards aren’t expected to come into force until 2025.

Unloading the truck outside Abbey Road studios

Unloading the truck outside Abbey Road Studios in London

The part Brexit has to play…

The Truck will not be going on tour with the Orchestra to Luxembourg, Frankfurt, Dortmund, Amsterdam, Cologne and Antwerp from Tuesday 21 September due to the new Brexit rules and the issue of cabotage. With Britain now out of the EU, trucks carrying musical instruments can make only three stops on the continent before having to return home in order to do any more. This means that the LSO must use a haulage company from the EU to come to the UK, pick up our gear, accompany us on our tour, bring our equipment back home, and then return to the EU. This is doable but more expensive, and comes at the risk of potential damage to instruments if the right internal truck conditions, such as temperature and humidity, are not controlled. This is of course also a direct negative environmental consequence of Brexit – it would be far better to take the LSO truck when doing a longer tour, which is also better environmentally when LSO members are able to fly to the first concert destination, and then use public transport and coaches to travel between venues, which incidentally they are doing for their tour this week! The orchestral sector sincerely hopes that the cabotage rules can be looked at again. However, when the LSO must use an EU haulage company, it makes sure to use trucks that abide by Euro 6 emission standards.

Touring post Covid-19

International touring is such an important part of the LSO’s life and income streams. We hope to build this back up post Covid-19, and we’re committed to making sure we’re doing all we can to make good environmental decisions whenever we can, whilst sharing our music-making with everyone. Our truck aims to minimise our environmental impact as we share our music with audiences around the UK and internationally.

Stage Managers Nathan and Alan with the LSO truck in Dusseldorf

Stage Manager Nathan and Operations Manager Alan with the LSO truck in Dusseldorf, Germany


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