Data sharing is key in driving urban logistics innovation, says Transport Systems Catapult

Intelligent use of data is essential for the freight sector to remain competitive in evolving cities, according to Transport Systems Catapult.

Speaking at last week’s Freight in the City Spring Summit, principal technologist Andrew Traill told delegates of the role enhanced data sharing could play in boosting innovation.

He said as cities become ‘places for people’, increasingly pedestrianized with reduced capacity for road vehicles, the freight sector needs to adapt its traditional model to remain viable.

“We shouldn’t be fighting this,” he added, “this is how people want to see the world. But we need to make sure freight isn’t forgotten when these plans are made.”

Traill asked: “How are they going to achieve this separation of freight from people? How are we going to make freight effectively invisible and yet still able to do its job?”

Better use of data will play a huge role, he said, but it is essential for all city stakeholders to be willing to share their own data sets and combine them to drive transport efficiencies.

“Data on its own is fine, but it’s like oil, the real value comes when you refine it and when you manage it. Data is coming from a growing number of sources every day,” he added, “how do we fuse it and bring it together?”

Comprehensive data can be essential in helping drive innovation in urban logistics and provide a clear modelling scenario for new systems to help de-risk investment in new technology, Traill concluded.

Project work at Transport Systems Catapult aims to bridge the gap between R&D and ensuring a product is translated into a market opportunity.

It aims to ensure the UK remains a leader in urban logistics innovation and finds opportunities in an intelligent mobility marketplace estimated to be worth £900bn.

“The more we open up and the more data we share, the better our models will be, with less risk and more opportunity,” said Traill.

Freight in the City Spring Summit attracts strong interest in sustainable urban deliveries

More than 350 visitors attended the Freight in the City Spring Summit this week to explore innovative ways of handling urban freight movements.

Starting the event with a powerful keynote speech was Labour MP Rob Flello, a keen supporter of the freight industry, who urged operators to approach government swiftly and collectively to address freight policy ahead of full Brexit negotiations.

Speakers representing some of the UK’s major cities, alongside academics and leading freight and logistics companies then took the stage to highlight best practice in making city deliveries cleaner, safer and quieter.

Themes explored on the day included the UK needing to take the lead in urban logistics innovation, data advancements to drive efficiency, and great examples of best practice taking place across Europe.

If you’d like to find out more about the event, then why not take a look at the latest A Week in Trucks video for highlights throughout the day.

And if you’d like to find out more about Freight in the City Scotland on 28 September, or Freight in the City London Expo on 7 November, then please contact





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.



Are low-emission zones helping drive urban logistics innovation?

Low-emission zones (LEZs) in cities are driving forward innovation in urban logistics, delegates heard at the Freight in the City Spring Summit in Birmingham.

Laetitia Dablanc, director of research at the French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport, Development and Networks, said there were around 200 LEZs operating in 12 countries across Europe.

Many capital cities across Europe now prevent access to older, more polluting vehicles to varying degrees, with countries such as Germany and Italy using LEZs in all medium-sized cities as well.

Dablanc conducted a survey about the impact LEZs had on the urban freight sector in London, Berlin and Gothenburg – you can read the findings of that survey here.

As well as a decrease in the number of freight miles undertaken within LEZ zones, Dablanc also discovered a reduction in the number of smaller operators.

She told delegates: “I don’t think this is a bad impact. I think it is good for the industry of urban freight, which has seen too many very small freight companies that lack the size to modernise their fleet and invest in their technology, or organise deliveries differently.”

Despite a positive trend towards sustainable urban freight models, 95% of deliveries into city are still made by diesel truck or van, she said: “95% of deliveries may be better off as a result of LEZs.”

Her research also found that LEZs had been more widely accepted in cities than originally thought, while the role of the rental sector had gained more prominence as operators looked for cleaner fleet vehicles

Dablanc also touched on the potential of extending the amount of out-of-hours deliveries taking place across cities globally.

She told delegates how New York City’s latest trials had led it to now include expansion of out-of-hours deliveries and noise monitoring in its transport strategy.

Businesses taking part had reported fewer delays, faster travel speeds and millions of dollars saved through parking tickets.

Paris promotes warehouse strategy for urban logistics use

Paris is adopting a new urban warehouse strategy to enable freight operators to occupy centrally-located city hubs at affordable rates.

The warehouses will enable more efficient consolidation of freight into central hubs, with goods transferred to cleaner modes for the last mile of delivery.

Speakers at Wednesday’s Freight in the City Spring Summit heard from Laetitia Dablanc, director of research at the French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport, Development and Networks, about the programme.

The ‘logistics hotel’ in Chapelle International in the 18th arrondissement of Paris uses a multi-storey design to maximise occupancy: the hotel has two floors dedicated to logistics activities, while the rest is used by offices, a data centre and a school on the upper floors.

Paris has also introduced a number of smaller underground freight parks to handle growing demand for e-commerce parcels.

For example, in the Place de la Concorde, a 1,000m2 underground park has been created for operator Chronopost, with a similar unit in use by Fed-Ex near the Rue des Pyramides.

The sites are built in old, disused buildings which enables them to be rented out at affordable rates for logistics activities.

There are currently around 20 of these smaller logistics terminals in Paris, with provision for around 80 more logistics terminals to be built within the Paris zoning plan.


UK should stop looking overseas for solutions, says Transport for the West Midlands

The UK shouldn’t be looking to cities overseas for answers to problems such as congestion and air quality, according to the chief executive of Transport for the West Midlands.

Speaking at the Freight in the City Spring Summit, Martin Reeves (pictured) told delegates that industry must “test things, try things. Or we’ll be back in this room in five years with nothing different”.

He said: “We should  not just address these issues, but we should be a beacon. Why is it that we find ourselves having to go to other European countries – to North America, to Scandinavia – and other parts of the world to understand best practice? We should be generating the international standards on best practice.”

On the day’s theme of improving the last mile, Reeves said that congestion around UK cities was “intolerable” to the detriment of final mile deliveries.

He said: “We are woefully behind our European counterparts in congestion. It’s a challenge to our economy. Every day you see the congestion on the network, which then affects last mile in our city centres. That is intolerable.”

Reeves also urged delegates to think of the air quality issues as an opportunity for change.

He said: “Rather than seeing air quality as a public health challenge, let’s see as it as a challenge and an opportunity to think fundamentally differently about disruptive technologies and how people live their lives. We have got to change the dynamic.”

The West Midlands, he added, will “never ever get the chance again to reimagine physically, socially, economically, environmentally, practically rebuild our cities.

“We have a choice,” he said.  We can do it well, and future proof it as best as we possibly can and grab the opportunity, not despite the challenges that we face but because of them. Or we do it badly.

“You’ve got to be leaders yourselves, you can’t be self-interested. Understand the power that you offer to future cities and future communities.”

Another speaker at the event agreed that urban freight challenges were an opportunity for creative thinking.

Helen Smith, head of logistics, environment and active travel at Transport for Greater Manchester, said vehicle design in particular was an area that could use more joined up thinking.

She said: “We could be more creative in our solutions. One basic example is there is a lot of work happening with schemes like Clocs, and the manufacturers are coming forward. But actually is there a programme that combines all these things?

Are we having the right conversations? Are we tackling this in a combined way, or looking in isolation at different problems and coming up with solutions that run parallel?”

Flello urges operators to approach government ‘loudly and clearly’ at Spring Summit

Freight operators were today urged to act “loudly, clearly and collectively” in any approach to government ahead of full Brexit negotiations.

Speaking at Freight in the City Spring Summit, Labour MP Rob Flello reiterated a plea made to industry last year for operators to voice plans for improving freight policy as a matter of urgency.

“All government departments are going to be log-jammed for years to come unravelling the legislative implications of Brexit,” said Flello (pictured, right).

With the DfT likely to be dominated by HS2 and Heathrow’s third runway, he said any ideas put forward by the freight sector must be have an easy-to-verify upside and preferably no departmental expenditure or effort.

“Make good arguments now or see them lost under the deluge of post-European legislative noise about to engulf us all,” he added.

Focusing on today’s summit theme – ‘Improving the last mile’ – Flello acknowledged that this was the most visible and politically-charged element of all deliveries.

“Lorry drivers are seen as the cause of urban congestion, pollution and the shortening of lives in our cities.  The caricature of ‘white van man’ as the careless, selfish road hog, rather than the person who’s bringing the stuff we all need is an unfair but prevalent one,” said Flello.

Addressing calls to switch to greener modes of transport through purely penalising diesel vehicles was not a “magic bullet in a world where consumers demand next-day delivery or better”, he believed.

Instead, smarter use of existing roads such as night-time deliveries, better responsiveness to varying traffic flows, intelligent management systems including traffic lights and sharing out the roads more efficiently should be encouraged as an immediate measure.

He also called for a national, integrated transport policy to be developed by central government.

In addition, Flello believed support of the GB Rail Freight Route could be a cost-effective and vital approach to removing freight from roads.

About 12% of UK freight goes by rail, whereas across the rest of Europe this figure is 15% and rising, he said.

“The GB Freight Route could take hundreds of thousands of lorries off our roads each week.”

The idea is for a dedicated line from London, through the Midlands and into Scotland and Wales following 480 miles of existing or disused track.  It would be a roll-on, roll-off system with lorries carried on the train.

Flello said it’s calculated to use a third of the fuel the road journeys would consume and produce 70% less CO2.

“Major supermarkets are already keen and at just six billion quid it’s about a tenth the price of HS2 and would take just five years to complete,” he said.

“It’s currently being considered by the National Infrastructure Commission and, with all the things going for it HS2 doesn’t have – cost, deliverability, carbon positivity, lack of invasion of the Green Belt and unquestionable economic benefit – it must be supported.”

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!




Tranzaura to showcase KATE compliance platform at Freight in the City Summit

Enhancing driver safety will be the key focus for Tranzaura when it heads to the Freight in the City Spring Summit next week.

The group will have a preview of its new safety and compliance platform KATE – Knowledge, Awareness, Training & Education hub – on display.

“It is designed to complement and enhance current training processes,” said Tranzaura chief executive Mike Price.

“As the third column of the Tranzaura Safety Hub, with vehicle and driver compliance being the other two, the platform will keep safety at the forefront of every employees mind.

“Tranzaura believe if safety is at the centre of everyday life for transport companies, operations and business excellence will follow,” he said.

The company will also have its Vehicle Compliance product on display. This replaces the traditional paper-based vehicle walk-around check with a real-time, web based product that has been adopted by the likes of Travis Perkins.

Price said integration of Vehicle Compliance at Travis Perkins into its business systems had helped it reduce vehicle downtime and cost per defect by up to 15%.

Driver Compliance, another Tranzaura product, will also be at the summit.

“Driver Compliance helps meet the ever changing legal, regulatory and compliance obligations with software that is easy-to-use and provides the insights to help you minimise infringements and get the best out of your drivers and fleet,” said Price.

By David Craik


Disc-Lock to demonstrate fleet safety systems at Freight in the City Birmingham

Disc-Lock will be reinforcing its safety message when it spins down to the Freight in the City Spring Summit next month.

The Wrexham-based group provides vibration-proof fastening systems used in a variety of industries worldwide from trucks, trailers and buses to rail engineering and heavy equipment manufacturing.

The three main products produced by Disc-Lock include the Safety Wheel Nut, which is a free spinning, vibration and shock-proof wheel nut designed to eliminate the risk of wheel loss from commercial vehicles.

“They are a leading solution to prevent the loss of wheel nuts and wheel detachments used throughout the transport industry,” a spokesman said.

The other two main products are the Disc-Lock Locking Nut, which is a double hex, free spinning, vibration-proof lock nut and a Disc-Lock Washer, which is a heavy duty self-locking product to prevent loosening caused by shock or vibrations in high-stress applications.

“Safety matters, with every commercial fleet and transport manager looking to make their commercial vehicles safe on the road for today, tomorrow and for the future,” the spokesman added.