Christopher Walton talks to TfL’s Ian Wainwright to discover why the industry needs to embrace out-of-hours deliveries.
There have been several milestones in the evolution of logistics: privatisation; the curtainsider; containerisation; palletisation. Then there has been primary and secondary distribution and, more recently, multichannel distribution. Now the industry is on the cusp of the next step change. Out-of-hours deliveries need to become the norm in the very near future, and the evolution is under way.
MT spoke to Ian Wainwright, head of freight and fleet at TfL, to get a better understanding of why rescheduled deliveries will be the industry standard, and not the exception, and why London is leading the change, not just in the UK but around the world.
“During the London 2012 Olympic Games we proved that it is possible to do out-of-hours deliveries, that they do not necessarily disturb people,” said Wainwright.
“There is often a lack of understanding between the different parties. Operators frequently do not challenge their customers because they are not in the position to; they need to explain ‘we can do this more efficiently and we can save you money’.”
Wainwright believes that TfL has a role to play in squaring the circle. Although the two weeks of the London Games created an urgent need for retiming deliveries, there is an even more pressing concern for out-of-hours deliveries. “Lots of people understood that there was a burning platform [during the Games]. It had to be different. We are now in a situation where, by 2031, we will go from 8.3 million people in London to 10 million; another 1.7 million people – a 15% increase.
“If everyone is to have the same standard of living, freight activity has to go up by 15% and the internet accounts for 20% of orders. So more stuff is coming in. And it’s coming in between 7am and 11am,” Wainwright explained.
“Retailers are making decisions about properties on a footfall basis,” he said. “Nobody usually cares about the logistics, and they pick the site and logistics thinks ‘how are we going to deliver to that?’”
To that end, TfL has confirmed three new out-of-hours delivery trials are to start in London. The trials will focus on three distinct areas: the possibility of a long-term change in delivery behaviour; options to change the delivery conditions imposed through the planning process; and demonstrating the use of various pieces of quiet delivery equipment. The first of the trials includes nine retail stores; four in inner London and five in outer London, and will involve deliveries earlier or later in the day than those currently being made.
“There is a lot of misconception in London that you cannot deliver out of hours, which is wrong. There are individual sites where you cannot deliver because of a planning condition, or a noise abatement notice, or a tenancy agreement, and a range of things about the technical aspects of delivering to that site. However, London is open for business overnight and we want to enable that to happen in a way that doesn’t disturb residents,” said Wainwright.
“The London Lorry Control Scheme only applies to vehicles over 18 tonnes and it is only a routeing scheme. So while you may have to go a different route to get around it, it won’t stop the delivery. There is still this feeling, because the scheme was introduced in 1986 as a ban, that it bans deliveries. It does not ban deliveries. So we have got to work on perceptions,” he conceded.
When TfL revealed last autumn that it was launching out-of-hours delivery trials, it also created an Out-of-Hours Consortium, comprising: three London boroughs, two retailers, the FTA, the RHA and London Councils. The group aims to demonstrate best practice and offers guidance on collaboration and new ways of working. Regular progress reports will be published.
“We want to look at how we can potentially move some supermarket activity [to different times of day],” Wainwright said of the consortium. “Supermarkets want flexibility in terms of delivery times and a lot of the stores they have, such as convenience stores, are not sites you would do 24/7.
“We are having some local successes but it is slow and we are not going into any details about that until the Quiet Cities global summit [see box] because we need to get the relationships right to know which boroughs and supermarkets need to talk. Be it about parking, driver behaviour, or planning.”
Back to normal
Wainwright said that after the Games a lot of operators and customers reverted to what they knew. All the success of out-of-hours deliveries during the Games was congratulated as a job well done as normal working practices resumed. “There was a willingness with the Games to challenge customers and tell them they were not going to receive goods for two weeks [unless they were retimed]. Now we are saying that within 20 years the need for retiming deliveries will be every day,” said Wainwright.
Change for the better
But customers and operators – be it hire and reward or own-account – do not want to hear that their way of doing business is wrong. “It isn’t wrong, but it can change for the better,” Wainwright said.
“We have to give people enough information so they understand what is coming, so they can make the right investment and recruitment decisions to enable them to deal with how cities are in the future. And, yes, this is London today but increased densities in terms of residential developments will happen in Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, and any other city. People will have to get used to that.
“A lot of the solutions that exist will make Barnstable or Bury St Edmonds or Burton-on-Trent nicer places too if people are doing things at different times of the day,” he added.