Freight in the City Spring Summit: road freight is vital to keep up with changing urban delivery demands

Learning to “love the truck” will help keep pace with changing consumer-driven delivery demands, delegates were told yesterday at the Freight in the City Spring Summit in Manchester.

Ian Stansfield, former Asda VP logistics services and supply chain, said the surge in online retail and changing consumer buying habits meant more just-in-time goods being delivered to urban areas rather than being taken to out-of-town stores.

“The whole shape of freight is changing massively,” explained Stansfield. “Consumers are shopping more locally, more frequently and when they go, they buy less.”

However, he said, one-third of deliveries to local stores or collection points face restrictions – such as preventing out-of-hours deliveries to take place – which “forces freight into congested times”.

Stansfield insisted that road haulage was playing a positive role in reducing vehicles from congested zones. He cited the example of a typical 3.5-tonne grocery home delivery van which takes, on average, 10 car journeys to the supermarket off the road, while a parcel delivery van could carry up to 50 separate packages – potentially removing 50 car journeys to a retailer.

“The consolidation of all those deliveries onto one vehicle is actually reducing emissions, reducing congestion and taking vehicles off the road,” said Stansfield.

Road transport operators had made huge strides in reducing vehicle movements and making them cleaner, safer and more efficient through better loadfill, collaboration and investment in technology, he added.

From an Asda perspective, this had seen the supermarket reducing road miles by 20 million over the past eight years, despite volumes growing by 35%.

“We just don’t shout enough about this. We don’t communicate this well to the general public and road freight continues to get a bad reputation,” added Stansfield.

He called for greater access around the clock to make deliveries and for the general public to embrace the efforts of the road transport sector.

“We need to learn to love the truck in the way we think about what we do in the future, we shouldn’t punish it, as it’s actually having a very positive impact on the amount of traffic on the roads”