More efficient use of lorries is a key goal of two major surveys into food and drink transportation in England launched by the Department for Transport.

The studies will be conducted in 2007 and 2009 as part of the government's strategy for sustainable distribution to be carried out by Scala Consulting.

They will focus on how efficiently lorries are used over 24-hour periods.

Graham Stubbs, the senior partner at Scala Consulting heading the project, said: "The government is trying to achieve a sustainable transport system by encouraging people to use vehicles more efficiently. The spin-off of better vehicle fill will be that congestion is reduced."

The studies will result in nationally recognised criteria against which businesses can measure themselves.

Separately, six universities are carrying out research over the next four years into the impact of logistics on the environment.