UPS: The big data revolution will drive logistics efficiency

Rapid advancements in data capability will be a core driver of innovation across the urban logistics sector, delegates to Freight in the City Spring Summit heard yesterday.

“If there’s one thing that’s really driving the opportunity for our industry to march forward in terms of its efficiency capabilities today, it’s the big data revolution,” said Peter Harris, director of sustainability for Europe at UPS.

“The opportunity for technology to enable us to crunch data in a way that wasn’t available just a few years ago,” Harris added.

UPS has been using its Orion (On-Road Integrated Optimisation and Navigation) system since 2014 across its US operation to analyse delivery drivers’ daily multi-stops and optimise the best route to take.

The system has enabled the parcel operator to reduce each driver’s average distance by seven miles per day.

Across the whole of the US driver-force, this has reduced annual journeys by 100 million miles, slashed 100,000 metric tonnes of CO2, and saved 10 million gallons of fuel.

Rolling laboratory

UPS has also been using its scale to enable it to take the lead in trialling the latest vehicle technology and fuels on the market.

Its “rolling laboratory” of more than 8,000 alternative fuel lorries and vans have now travelled more than one billion miles worldwide.

This has enabled the parcel firm to map the technologies it feels are most suited to each of its operations, focusing on duty-specific application of individual fuels.

Its Alternative Technology Vision is a strategy for each of its urban operations, ranging from city-to-hub feeder routes using biomethane trucks, through to a truck-free future in the densest urban areas.

In these central-most zones, the parcel firm revealed a plan to expand out the successful urban logistics model in place across Hamburg.



Last chance to book your free place at Freight in the City Spring Summit

Freight in the City Spring Summit is now only a few days away and promises to be a must-attend networking opportunity for anybody interested in improving last-mile deliveries in towns and cities.

More than 500 visitors from across the public and private sector have signed up to attend the one-day conference and exhibition on 1 March at Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham.

Speakers from the UK and mainland Europe will be leading the debate on better ways to handle urban deliveries, while the exhibition will bring you the very latest vehicles, equipment and services for city fleets.

Doors open at 8.15, with a delicious bacon or egg roll waiting for you courtesy of Mercedes-Benz and Fuso Trucks UK, so make sure you get there early to look around the exhibition.

Freight in the City Spring Summit ‘Improving the last mile’ is supported by the Urban Transport Group, Transport for West Midlands, Mercedes-Benz and Fuso Trucks UK.

There is still time to reserve your free place to attend, so make sure you do so today, and we’ll look forward to welcoming you next week!




Meachers’ winning formula makes Southampton consolidation pay

The Meachers-run Southampton Suitable Distribution Centre (SDC) has proved a success and no longer needs any subsidy, according to the man leading the project.

Speaking last month at Making Freight Consolidation Centres Work, Meachers Global Logistics commercial director Gary Whittle said that three years on from signing up to operate, the consolidation centre no longer needed any subsidy.

“The centre bolts on to what we do at Meachers and therefore will exist in 10 years time regardless,” Whittle told delegates.

The SDC is run on behalf of Southampton City Council, which received funding from government through its local sustainable transport fund to get the project off the ground.

Whittle added this was money used to support council departments make the move to using the SDC and not something Meachers made use of.

Whittle said that the success and sustainability of the consolidation centre in a sector where few have proved to have longevity was down to integrating the facility into Meachers’ day-to-day operations on the Nursling Estate, Southampton.

“If we had been a dedicated, standalone SDC we’d have been out of business in the first six months,” said Whittle.

Whittle illustrated this point by stating that although 14 local government departments expressed interest in making use of the SDC, which runs around the clock through the week, only three actually signed up and began consolidating their loads through the facility at the start of the project.

Because Meachers had its private business operating from the same site (clients include cruise ship operator Carnival), Whittle was able to keep the lights on while he worked on signing up more public partners.

Despite this, Whittle said getting local government on board was ultimately invaluable for anyone looking at setting up and sustaining a consolidation operation.

“You need scale for a consolidation centre to work. The public sector brings this, which allows me to then sell the concept to the private sector,” said Whittle.

Clients include New Forest District Council; Southampton City Council; the NHS; University of Southampton; Solent University; Hampshire County Council Records Department; Try-A-Bus and Solent Go.

The SDC is located outside Southampton’s proposed Clean Air Zone, which was also discussed at the event.

  • Whittle will be sharing his experiences and what he’s learnt in the process about operating a successful consolidation centre at next week’s Freight in the City Summit in Birmingham. Register now to reserve your place at the free event, which takes place at Edgbaston Stadium on 1 March.


Greater Manchester and Transport for the North invite operators to freight forum

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) is inviting operators to come along to its second Logistics Forum on 7 March to address the challenges and opportunities for the freight sector across the region.

The event will bring together key speakers from TfGM and the freight sector, as well as three workshops in the afternoon focusing on: vehicles; urban deliveries; and consolidation.

Helen Smith, head of logistics, environment and active travel at TfGM, said: “It’s very important to us that the forum is a partnership between the public and private sectors, working together to identify challenges and put into practice solutions to support the environmental, social and economic ambitions of the city region.

“The March summit will focus on highways projects, consolidation, alternative fuels and the implications of a possible low-emission zone for freight in the region.”

She added that the afternoon workshops would consider ways to best support the forum’s activities and will help develop pilots and case studies for sustainable freight and logistics practices, “which are scalable and give tangible results”.

“It’s intended that the Forum is a channel for collaboration, consultation and sharing of best practice, and we hope that it will in time be recognised as a significant voice for the industry in Greater Manchester.”

Directly after the logistics forum, there will also be the opportunity to take part in a workshop run by Transport for the North (TfN), which aims to garner operator feedback for its Strategic Transport Plan (STP) under development.

TfN wants to enable an open discussion to ensure the needs of the freight and logistics sector are met by the STP proposals.

The events both take place on 7 March at Innside, 1 First Street, Manchester, M15 4RP.

TfGM’s forum will run from 09.30am to 2.30pm (including lunch), with the TfN workshop held from 2.30pm – 4.00pm at the same venue.

To find out more about the speakers and register, email:



UPS talks urban delivery trials ahead of Freight in the City Birmingham Summit

UPS director of sustainability for Europe, Peter Harris, shares some of the work taking place across European cities ahead of his appearance at Freight in the City Spring Summit next month.

Global parcel carrier UPS is to trial a brand-new urban delivery concept in London this year.

The company plans to operate new electrically-assisted cargo containers in London’s busy Westminster area, in an effort to reduce the emissions and congestion associated with increasing van usage in the capital.

Technology used on the ‘e-trailer’ is termed net neutral, so the weight of the trailer is not felt by the handler, allowing for increased volumes of last-mile deliveries by foot or cycling.

The trailer is being developed through the Low Impact City Logistics project, which is part of a £10m research investment by InnovateUK for collaborative R&D to improve end-to-end people and freight journeys.

It is planned that a number of the e-trailers would be preloaded at the UPS centre in Camden before being brought in on a larger trailer towed behind a normal delivery vehicle for helpers to then make the final mile  by foot or cycle.

Peter Harris (pictured), director of sustainability for Europe  at UPS, tells Freight in the City that the concept for the trailers was a natural extension to an urban delivery operation that has been running in Hamburg, Germany for a number of years.

This sees a number of urban micro depots – large containers, much like the size used for sea freight – positioned around the city.

The containers hold enough volume for several helpers to work from throughout the day, delivering parcels by foot, bike or e-trike.

The helpers also collect parcels from residents and businesses in the city centre and return them to the containers for pick-up at the end of the day by one lorry.

“So, instead of it being trucks moving around in the city all day, it’s one truck in and one truck out, and the rest of the time we’re using zero-truck transport, which is the ambition to try and get trucks out of the city and the emissions and congestion that go with them,” explains Harris.

The Hamburg model is now being expanded to other European cities.

Mega city

“But when we came to thinking about London, we thought we probably need a slightly different approach here,” says Harris.

One of the key challenges was London’s density, he says, as a mega city, with the option of siting a number of large containers on valuable road or pavement space being unlikely.

Also, the option to deliver by trike might prove tricky in London’s bustling streets, making foot delivery with an e-trailer a more practical proposition.

To overcome all these challenges, UPS is working within a consortium including the University of Huddersfield, Westminster City Council, Fernhay, Skotkonung and Outspoken Delivery to develop the e-trailer technology and prototype.

“At our central London depot in Camden, the e-trailers will be positioned  on the belt just as our normal trucks are” says Harris.

“The trailers will then go down-town already loaded into drop order.”

To avoid the need to drop-off large container units across the city, e-trailers will be delivered by a transfer trailer pulled by a regular distribution truck. This will likely hold around six units, although this has not yet been finalised.

Timescale for rollout of the e-trailers has yet to be confirmed, but will take place this year.

Urban focus

The project is just one element of the move towards sustainable deliveries taking place in the UK by UPS.

For example, the company has just deployed its 52nd electric truck in London

“They’re mostly conversions from diesel, which is quite interesting in its own right because a version of the style and configuration that we wanted didn’t exist, so we developed our own  working with a German technology firm called EFA-S,” says Harris.

UPS carries out the strip-down and refurbishment of the older trucks used itself ahead of the electric conversion by EFA-S.

The company has received funding through its work on the FREVUE project that aims to establish the feasibility of electric commercial vehicles in real-life operations across Europe.

Project work has included significant expenditure to overcome the challenges of charging multiple electric vehicles from the grid at one time.

“We actually went through a major expenditure in London to achieve this. We don’t want to do this again as it’s very expensive and it’s not moveable. Nor is it incremental.

“So what we’re proposing instead is a smart grid facility that would connect our vehicles to the grid in an intelligent way and look for available capacity within the existing supply,” Harris says.

“If we can make that work, and we are hoping to do it in conjunction with UK Power Networks Services, then it could potentially open up a completely new realm of opportunity for urban electrification.”


The company is also planning to introduce 15 more range-extended electric 7.5-tonne Tevva Motors trucks into its fleet (pictured).

And gas-powered trucks are also a key player in the UPS alternative-fuelled fleet, with the company operating 19 HGVs on LNG from its Tamworth depot.

“The challenge is that we want to run them on renewable gas, but it’s just not available in liquid form. So we’ve had to fall back on LNG” says Harris.

“There needs to be new infrastructure put in place to capitalise on this new market.”

Harris believes the UK is well placed to be a leader in terms of renewable fuels expertise, with a political framework supportive of driving such developments forward.

As such, the UK continues to be a pivotal market for UPS to trial new emerging technologies and developments.



Check out the latest speakers signed up to Freight in the City Birmingham on 1 March

More than 300 visitors have now registered to attend Freight in the City Spring Summit ‘Improving the last mile’ on 1 March in Birmingham.

The seminar programme is now confirmed with a strong line-up of speakers bringing together city officials and the logistics sector to promote sustainable urban freight movements.

Latest speakers joining the programme include RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding, presenting brand-new research investigating whether the surge in van traffic is the result of the online-shopping boom.

The research asks whether e-commerce is adding to congestion or actually reducing it as people do their buying from the comfort of their sofas rather than driving to the store?

Carrier Transicold’s Scott Dargan will examine the legislative changes related to the urban distribution of perishable produce and how transport refrigeration system manufacturers are rising to this challenge.

This will include insight into some of the latest and next-generation technologies which will help to minimise environmental impact, including the use of refrigerants with a lower global warming potential, alternative-fuel-powered refrigeration systems and engineless solutions.

You’ll also hear from Transport Systems Catapult about the importance of keeping pace with the latest data and technology developments bringing more efficiency to urban logistics.

“When we speak of the future innovations in freight logistics for urban areas, we mean the next few months rather than years; change is happening now, today,” said Andrew Traill, principal technologist, Transport Systems Catapult.

“If we want to prosper economically and if we want to resolve the challenges of urban growth and development, we have to embrace this change; and not just embrace and follow but, where we have expertise, we should also lead the way.”

Freight in the City Spring Summit is an ideal opportunity to network with your peers and make important new business connections, so why not take a look through the variety of organisations already registered to take part.

There will also be an exhibition of the latest equipment and services to make your city logistics operation run smoothly, as well as a small outdoor urban vehicle display area.

The event takes place on 1 March at Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham. Make sure you reserve your free place to attend today!

Registration open for Freight in the City Birmingham on 1 March

Registrations have now opened for the ‘Freight in the City Spring Summit: Improving the last mile’ on 1 March at Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham.

This free-to-attend summit will focus on the need to think differently about how cities, businesses and operators approach last-mile deliveries to reduce freight’s impact on urban areas.

You’ll hear from major cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Southampton about the challenges they’ve faced to mitigate the impact of essential goods deliveries to businesses and residents in urban areas.

These include mandated clean air zones that need to be in place by 2020, as well as a need to reduce conflict between goods vehicles and vulnerable users, and finding ways to tackle congestion on key routes into and around cities.

Leading researcher Laetitia Dablanc will share urban logistics best practice across Europe, complemented by seminars from major operators such as UPS and Meachers Global Logistics on their work to make inner city deliveries more sustainable.

Delegates will also take a look at some of the latest technology and delivery methods emerging to the marketplace, as well as the potential of modal switch to water, rail or bicycle for relieving pressure on the roads network.

There will also be the opportunity to ask questions via a lively panel debate on the challenge of persuading consumers to accept more sustainable methods of receiving their online purchases.

“This really is a must-attend event for local authorities, businesses and freight operators to learn from their peers about more sustainable ways to handle last-mile deliveries, demonstrating how cities and industry have worked collaboratively to ensure freight journeys are cleaner, safer and quieter,” said Hayley Pink, Freight in the City editor.

The spring summit is supported by the Urban Transport Group (UTG) and Transport for West Midlands.

Jonathan Bray, UTG director, said: “Getting last-mile logistics right forms part of a much wider debate about what kind of cities we want to live in and how we want them to look and feel.

“This conference presents a great opportunity to explore innovative solutions that enable last-mile journeys to be completed as safely, unobtrusively and with as little environmental impact as possible.”

  • Reserve your place now and browse through the speakers and exhibitors taking part, or to check out the organisations already signed up to attend.

What does the future hold for urban freight?

London at dawn

Urban logistics is impeded by congestion, a lack of kerbspace, the need for cleaner air and restrictions on size and noise, all against a backdrop of increased demand.

Freight is now higher on the agenda and helped by more inter-agency co-ordination than before, but progress is painstaking.

Worldwide, air pollution is said to kill more people than Aids and malaria combined, and it is certainly credited with a high death toll in some UK cities.

About 40,000 early deaths and a £27.5bn annual bill has seen ministers declaring air pollution a national emergency.

The government had planned to roll out Clean Air Zones (CAZ) in Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton by 2020.

The zones were graded A-E, with each adding a different traffic element: HGVs, buses, taxis and so on, but none of the original CAZ policies targeted the UK’s 12 million diesel cars.

Emissions measurements

However, the government now has to produce a much more aggressive plan for tackling air pollution after the High Court twice ruled that its current policies were so poor they were illegal.

The High Court found that the government was basing its policy on lab-based emissions measurements (typically on cars and vans) which it knew bore little resemblance to the levels of emissions pumped out in daily use, and that its timetable lacked urgency.

ClientEarth, the group of environmental lawyers that took the government to court, says it will now have to be far tougher on diesel. “Euro-6 was not what we thought it would be,” says a ClientEarth spokesperson.

Hard to defend

The government’s exclusion of cars from CAZs will be hard to defend.

A Leeds University study into Euro-6 cars following the VW scandal found that: “The latest generation of Euro-6 diesel cars do emit around 50% less NOx per kilometre of driving than their predecessors but still, on average, five times that permitted by the Euro-6 standard.”

air-qualityEuro-6 turned the spotlight on NOx. Pre-Euro-6 vans usually produce more NOx in order to make the diesel particulate filter work more efficiently.

Euro-6 vans add a NOx trap or SCR to cut NOx emissions, and while they are 40% better than Euro-5, according to the FTA, there is still a question mark over whether they achieve the test limits in real-world driving.

Reports by Ricardo, the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership and TfL all assert that heavy-duty Euro-6 vehicles are tested much more rigorously.

Ricardo says its heavy-duty engine testing on the road has shown emissions values between half and twice that of the allowable level, so “within extremely low conformity factors”.

The other possible outcome of the High Court ruling, which emphasised speed of implementation, is that the government resurrects its original plans for far more Clean Air Zones.

ClientEarth is calling for 16 CAZs across the UK by 2018 – something the FTA’s head of national and regional policy, Christopher Snelling, refers to as “the worst-case scenario”.

Snelling says it is hard to see diesel being acceptable anywhere on city streets by 2030. In the shorter term we will face Euro-7 but there is little more than informed speculation in terms of what will be included. CO2 will be a major focus, but NOx emissions are likely to be hammered down again as well as particulate matter (PM).

Changing behaviour

TfL senior strategy and planning manager Paul Strang says standards to push air quality improvements are “quicker and easier than measures to change behaviours”.

Andy Noble, head of heavy-duty engines at Ricardo, says: “It is almost always possible to go further in reducing emissions, and we are pursuing research on ultra-low NOx heavy-duty diesel and natural gas engines aimed at extremely low emissions of just 7% of Euro-6 for new standards in California.

“However,[with] NOx and PM we are possibly beginning to approach a stage of diminishing returns beyond Euro-6, where background pollution levels from industry and from older vehicles become the real problem.”

When emissions can go no lower and practical alternatives to diesel for heavy duty applications are still years off, what comes next?

Public policy can still focus on encouraging fleet renewal – perhaps with scrappage schemes – and encouraging after treatments. However, Strang’s reference to changing behaviours comes sharply into focus.

The historic policy focus on mitigation is increasingly giving way to reducing the demand for transport, which essentially means working with freight customers to change how and when they want their goods and effecting a range of consolidation techniques.

TfL’s freight and fleet project manager for retiming Jaz Chani admits most major retailers and logistics companies have long used consolidation as a natural efficiency measure.

Footing the bill

Consolidation centres themselves can reduce HGV movements but at the cost of greater van movements. They also rely upon businesses being prepared to co-operate on logistics and to foot the bill.

While there has been some notable progress in the public sector and construction, it remains to be seen whether other types of business will take this up.

Carbon emissionsTfL claims the use of a construction consolidation centre can cut journeys to site by 70%.

The RHA’s manager for infrastructure and security, Chrys Rampley, notes that such centres only work when adequate thought is given to access and queuing facilities for trucks.

Chani responds that the needs of freight are now being considered far more carefully in planning applications.

Rampley also says that the crucial element moving forwards will be engagement by freight customers and operators; and if any operator currently has an innovative solution, could they please share it?

Snelling warns that consolidation and retiming should not be imposed if they don’t genuinely improve efficiency. “Every politician thinks these will be a magic solution,” he says.

Previous policies have been distinctly limited in effect. The congestion charge “reduced traffic and bought space for an expanded bus network”, argues Strang.

However, the exclusion of taxis should signal a warning bell for future policies.

When the congestion charge was introduced in 2003 there were 22,500 black cabs in London.

The exact number of minicabs in 2003 is not known, but it definitely grew. In 2010, there were 50,000 minicabs and in 2015 there were 76,000, with 25,000 signed up to Uber alone: an unintended consequence of public policy.

Earlier this year the government refused once again to cap minicab numbers in the capital.

By Louise Cole

Smart Mile Solutions locates PackRobot delivery terminal in German city

Dutch firm Smart Mile Solutions has installed Germany’s first PackRobot in the city of Nagold, as part of a shared urban delivery platform to encourage sustainable deliveries of locally-produced goods.

The PackRobot is a secure, self-service parcel terminal designed by Estonian tech firm Cleveron, with an automated smart storage system that optimises the use of available space.

This is performed by a 3D lift that picks and delivers the right parcel to a secure delivery slot.

Octagonal shaped, the PackRobot is capable of holding up to 500 parcels on just 4.9 m² of floor space and can be used for high-value and temperature-sensitive packages.

Packrobot picture press releaseCustomers using the Smart Mile Solutions app are able to order goods directly from local businesses and have them delivered to the centrally located PackRobot for pick-up at a convenient time.

App users are also able to use the PackRobot for national deliveries as well, with parcel couriers using the terminal as a final destination for goods rather than delivering directly to an end recipient.

Smart Mile said local businesses are also able to benefit by being able to use sustainable delivery options, such as cycle logistics couriers, to drop their goods at the PackRobot and eliminate the need for traditional delivery methods.

Following its launch in Nagold, the company will expand this scheme into other cities in Germany and across the rest of Europe.

In Germany, Smart Mile Solutions operates through its subsidiary citydibs Deutschland.

A company spokesman said: “The Smart Mile platform puts consumers in control over receiving their online purchases, reduces inner city traffic and carbon emission and stimulates the local economy.”

Freight in the City takes the last-mile debate to Birmingham in March 2017

Save the date for the Freight in the City Spring Summit ‘Improving the last mile’ on 1 March 2017 at Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham.

This exciting, free-to-attend-event will focus on the latest innovation and operational practices to ensure last-mile freight movements are safe, clean and quiet across urban areas.

An exciting line-up of speakers from both the private and public sector will debate the last-mile challenge and explore some of the successful work already taking place in cities across the UK and mainland Europe to address the issue.

The Urban Transport Group (UTG), which brings together and promotes the interests of Britain’s largest metropolitan areas on transport, will be supporting the event in Birmingham.

Jonathan Bray, UTG director, said: “Urban Transport Group is pleased to be sponsoring ‘Improving the last mile’. Getting last-mile logistics right forms part of a much wider debate about what kind of cities we want to live in and how we want them to look and feel.

“This conference presents a great opportunity to explore innovative solutions that enable last-mile journeys to be completed as safely, unobtrusively and with as little environmental impact as possible.”

Alongside the seminar programme will be an exhibition hall dedicated to the latest equipment and technology to enable compliant, efficient city deliveries.

While outside the venue will be a display of some of the newest urban vehicles on the market.

Details of the speaker programme and exhibitors will be released early in the new year, so make sure you are signed up to receive the latest event updates and our fortnightly round-up of urban transport news.

If you are interested in presenting at the Freight in the City Spring Summit on the topic of clean, safe and quiet last-mile deliveries or servicing, then please contact

We look forward to seeing you there.