Retailers and manufacturers have slashed 124 million road miles through collaborative deliveries in the past three years surpassing the industry target a year early.

The sustainable distribution initiative, led by Efficient Consumer Response and IGD, had a four-year goal to cut 120 million road miles by the end of 2010. By meeting targets early, ECR claimed to have removed the equivalent of 2,000 lorries from British roads, saving 60 million litres of diesel a year.

More than 40 companies are now signed up to the scheme, which involves the use of double-deck vehicles and shared delivery lorries.

Nestlé group supply chain director Chris Tyas, who co-chairs the ECR board, said that despite the recession, companies were willing to join forces to reduce their impact on the environment. However, more could still be done, he said. "One quarter of lorries on our roads are still estimated to be running empty on their way back from delivering goods. This offers huge scope for more companies of all sizes to implement similar activities."

Nestlé and Mars worked together last September, combining confectionery deliveries to Tesco. It resulted in 40 joint loads, saving more than 5,000 miles in duplicate journeys. Asda cut seven million annual road miles by using 100 double-deck trailers when moving loads from depot to depot. It is now introducing 68 similar trailers to deliver across its store network, which are forecast to save four million miles a year.

PepsiCo also reduced empty lorry journeys by taking its potato supply in-house at its Leicester plant. New bespoke trailers deliver crisps to customers, then go via the farmer to pick up potatoes, before jet fluming them directly on to the line back at the plant. It planned to cut 250,000 road miles last year, but exceeded the target by 100,000.