The movement of goods between a transport hub to a final delivery address is commonly known as the ‘last mile’. It is an important part of the supply chain where environmental and efficiency gains can be made. Utilising electric vehicles for the last mile or consolidating loads are just a couple of examples of how the last leg can be made in a more sustainable way.
TfL’s plans to increase penalty charges for vehicles stopping illegally on London’s Red Routes will penalise freight operators and could drive up delivery costs across the capital.
The warning came from the FTA, which expressed “bitter disappointment” after TfL revealed its intention to increase Red Route PCNs from £130 to £160.
The RHA echoed TfL’s concern, condemning the move as a way of raising funds to pay for London mayor Sadiq Khan’s fare freeze.
The proposal, announced this week follows a TfL consultation on congestion charging and remains subject to a review by transport secretary Chris Grayling.
The FTA argued that the lack of loading bays in London means that many truck and van drivers have no choice but to park on Red Routes during deliveries.
Natalie Chapman, FTA London policy lead, said: “The plan to increase the penalty charges for Red Routes is ill-considered.
“The fact that there’s been an increase in repeat offenders suggests these vehicles are making multiple journeys into London and they could well be van and truck deliveries.”
RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “It’s a punishment tax on motorists and goods vehicle operators. London is one of the world’s major business centres and tourist attractions – for the city to work it needs the goods moved by the road haulage industry.
“Current policies being promoted by the mayor are increasing congestion and attack motorised mobility of all types, including the essential movers of goods.”
Chapman added: “In many cases, there is simply nowhere for drivers to stop and deliver legally. It could also be that the operating hours of loading bays and red lines do not meet the needs of businesses or residents receiving deliveries and need to be changed.”
She called on TfL to increase the number and size of loading bays and extend loading times as alternative ways to ease congestion along London’s routes.
She added that the FTA is contacting transport secretary Chris Grayling to raise its “very serious concerns” about the increase.
“Without solid evidence to support these higher charges, they could prove pointless and may end up punishing all of London’s residents and workers, who will have to pay the increased cost of deliveries,” Chapman added.
A TfL spokeswoman told Freight in the City that TfL plans to raise Red Route PCN charges have yet to be reviewed by the transport secretary.
She added: “Our stakeholder team has engaged with the freight industry during the consultation period and its views are being taken very seriously.”
Renault Trucks will be making a special delivery at this year’s Freight in the City Expo with a brand-new product launch aimed at the multi-drop courier sector.
Making its debut at the urban logistics-themed event, the Renault Trucks Master Optilogistics van is designed to meet the challenging requirements of busy parcel carriers as part of the new ‘Ready for Business’ range.
It will feature a host of “robust, practical options” that courier firms often seek to retrofit following delivery of a new vehicle, according to the manufacturer.
“When you speak to fleet operators, they often take a standard van and spend an awful lot of time adding to it,” said Renault Trucks head of LCV, UK & Ireland, Grahame Neagus.
“We’ve taken the operational wish list of these customers and created a model, in conjunction with Bri-Stor Systems, that has them as standard,” he said.
While Renault Trucks is keeping the full list of options under wraps until launch day, Freightinthecity.com can reveal they will combine both safety and operational benefits, including:
Robust door design to prevent hinge failures on hard-wearing, multi-drop duties
Hard-wearing fabrics on both seats, carpets and mats
Brand-new retractable racking and cargo-restraint system
Integrated on-board weighing to prevent illegal vehicle overloading
Advanced five-camera system for vehicle and pedestrian safety
Perhaps the most important element within the new Optilogistics package is an industry-first inclusion of a digital alcolock system as standard to prevent a driver operating the van under the influence of alcohol. This is linked to the van’s telematics system to also inform the transport office if a driver fails the test.
Neagus believes the new van package is a “very compelling vehicle for the parcel logistics sector” and said Renault Trucks has worked closely with its customers to get the specification right.
“This is about thinking like the operator and developing a product in tandem with them. This understanding of what commercial vehicle operators are seeking is what sets us apart from other large van manufacturers, with compliance and safety at the very heart of what we offer” he added.
Renault Trucks’ Master Range is available from 2.8 tonnes to 4.5 tonnes.
The Optilogistics model will be available to order on all new Euro-6 vans from 8 November, with an electric Master also available during next year.
Freight in the City takes place on 7 November at London’s Alexandra Palace. It is free to attend and features an exciting exhibition of urban logistics vehicles, technology and services, as well as a complementary full-day seminar programme.
Three uptake scenarios for electric freight vehicles:
• Low – 10% of all freight traffic electrified
• Medium – 50% of all freight traffic electrified
• High – 100% of all freight traffic electrified
Low penetration level (10%), 2021:
• NOx reduction of 402 tonnes
• PM reduction of 3.8 tonnes
• Local GHG savings of 284,000 tonnes CO2e
High penetration level (100%), 2031: • NOx reduction of 2,500 tonnes
• PM reduction of 16 tonnes
• Local GHG savings of 2. 9 tonnes CO2e
Professor John Polak, director of the Urban System Laboratory at Imperial College London, undertook research to assess the environmental impact of electric trucks.
This included direct results from the Frevue vehicles taking part in the trial, traffic modelling to assess future impact depending on electric freight vehicle uptake levels, and the resulting cost savings to be realised.
Polak’s research also looked at the wider social impact and attitudes towards electric freight vehicles.
He surveyed hundreds of participants from the eight Frevue partner cities: Amsterdam, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Milan, Oslo, Rotterdam and Stockholm.
This included feedback from drivers and fleet managers, through to end customers and infrastructure providers. Some key conclusions found that:
Drivers found electric vehicles to be a positive experience, enjoying the instant power, quietness and simple operation.
Only 15% of drivers reported any range anxiety, which was due in the main to a low state of charge at the end of their delivery routes and a reduction in performance during cold weather.
Fleet managers found the electric vehicles integrated easily into existing depot routines, with good reliability reported for electric vans and improved reliability for larger electric trucks after an initial trial and error period.
Around half of logistics firms surveyed said they have committed to more electric freight vehicles in the short-term due to positive experiences, however, 30% said there is no plan as “better products are needed”.
Others planned to deploy more electric vehicles as part of a wider fleet decarbonisation strategy, looking at suitability of all alternative fuels, infrastructure, financial incentives and policy.
A new report commissioned by the Independent Transport Commission (ITC) has found that the general public’s belief that delivery is free is something to be challenged urgently if urban distribution is to remain viable.
ITC director Matthew Niblett said: “People are waking up to the fact that freight produces a large and increasing portion of daily road miles, particularly during the peak hours.
“With online retail delivery volumes increasing by 10% in 2016, we need individuals, businesses and public organisations to break out of the free delivery mindset.”
He added: “The government, metro mayors, transport authorities, local authorities and other public bodies need to get on the front-foot to drive change through a combination of actions.
“These include establishing a conducive regulatory framework, interrogating their supply chains, harnessing new technologies, and seed funding consolidation centres until the necessary scale is achieved to allow these to operate independently; all the while encouraging behavioural change from all quarters, including suppliers, customers, the logistics operators and staff employed by public bodies.”
Key challenges cited in the report, How can we improve urban freight distribution in the UK?, include congestion, poor air quality, noise and timing of deliveries, and the last-mile conundrum – all highly emotive factors the haulage industry finds itself both contributing towards and falling victim to.
But what should cities be looking to introduce to tackle them? ITC focuses on three case studies that could help to improve city logistics.
First, it looks at retiming deliveries, with a snapshot of a successful shoulder-hour delivery trial (deliveries outside peak hours but not necessarily overnight) carried out by DHL Supply Chain with one of its retail customers in Camden High Street, North London.
The store used in the two-month trial was located on a busy high street with deliveries only possible to the rear of the building, down narrow streets.
Multiple vans per day had to be deployed, parked up some distance from the store on double yellow lines with roll cages pushed along the street by the driver.
Residents complained about the noise, PCNs were regularly incurred, and – arguably – far more vehicles were used than necessary to meet the store’s stock demands.
The trial saw deliveries shifted to 8.30pm, outside of peak hours, a time agreed with both the retailer and TfL. Deliveries were rerouted to the front of the shop, which allowed larger trucks to be used, and removed the noise nuisance to the residents at the rear, with special dispensation granted to DHL to allow it to park in a bus lane.
As a result of the trial, significant cost savings were made: 13.4% in road miles (delivery vehicles were halved); 13.1% in drivers’ wages; 3.7% in time efficiency; and 32.9% in PCN avoidance.
The operation is now permanent.
ITC concluded the trial had demonstrated clear benefits to urban policymakers and hauliers, such as improved safety, reduction in congestion and vehicle journeys as well as their resultant emissions.
However it said retiming remains a slow process, with many parties involved to make it a success.
ITC urges players to share their experiences with other businesses and hauliers, with a call to government to find new ways of conveying these messages to the wider industry.
A second case study explored the successful model of the London Boroughs Consolidation Centre (LBCC), still in operation today, managed by DHL following a competitive tender in 2015.
The ITC believes urban consolidation centres can offer an important opportunity to reduce freight movements, however the widespread take-up of such models face the challenge of scale and cost.
Local government subsidies are often needed – for example the LBCC still receives around £65,000 from the mayor’s Air Quality Fund – yet with increased volume such models should become self-sustaining.
Procurement is seen as a valuable tool to driving volume, as are local authority incentives or, on the flipside, penalties for non-use.
Launched by the creators of Skype, the Starship Technologies robots are designed to operate 99% autonomously at pedestrian speed on pavements and deliver goods within 30 minutes.
They can carry up to 10kg of goods and have so far proven 100% tamper-proof, fitted with an array of security sensors, GPS tracking and on-board cameras.
This has been the case over the 35,000km driven in total, of which 5,000km were in the UK and at least four million people encountered one on the streets (as of spring 2017).
With these robots, Starship seeks to address the cost of the last-mile delivery, which is estimated by the ITC to be around £6-£12 (the main cost being the driver’s wage). If the company achieves the scale it desires, then it targets a cost for this last mile of £1 per delivery, around 10% the cost of a human-based operation.
A small corner shop, retailer or restaurant can hire a robot for their deliveries – similar to a lease agreement – place goods inside and dispatch it to the customer, who then enters a secure code from an app to unlock the unit.
This business model is fundamentally different to other autonomous delivery methods on trial, as Starship is selling a service, rather than a product: owning both the model and the liability solves a key issue facing the autonomous sector, according to the ITC.
Starship has also been pushing hard with countries’ governments to develop legislation to help grow this new sector.
In the UK, the company has been in talks with the DfT and the chancellor to secure a regulatory framework for what they call a Personal Delivery Device, with an expansion of its business built on the assurance this would be in place this year.
The ITC pulls together some key messages from its research:
Collaborate to succeed – it is clear that the success of urban freight solutions depends on the wide range of parties to work together and make compromises for a common good, as well as cost savings.
Behaviour change – at the root of all case studies was the need to change expectations and mindsets of businesses and consumers.
Understand the trade-offs – addressing one urban freight issue might negatively affect other objectives.
Support innovation – financial and/or regulatory support from policymakers is important.
Scale – sufficient scale is often essential to the economic viability of new schemes, such as consolidation centres.
Regulatory frameworks – new legislation may be needed for new technology to justify ongoing investment.
The ITC is an independent research charity that focuses on improving policy on UK transport, land use and planning.
A freight trial in the Swedish city of Stockholm has identified both business and environmental benefits from the use of out-of-hours delivery patterns.
The Off Peak City Distribution trial, led by Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology, saw two trucks receive an exemption to the current night-time delivery ban in place from 10pm to 6am in Stockholm.
Researchers wanted to see if lifting the ban would drive operational efficiency for hauliers and businesses receiving their goods, as well as congestion-busting and air quality benefits from removing freight vehicles from rush-hour.
Volvo supplied a parallel hybrid (diesel-electric) FE model fitted with a geofencing device that enabled the truck to switch to quiet, clean electric operation within urban areas.
This was used for dedicated deliveries for supermarket Lidl, travelling 30km between its warehouse in Roserberg and three city centre stores in Stockholm.
A second HGV, a biogas-fuelled Scania R480 (pictured below), was used to transport consolidated goods for Swedish foodservice supplier Martin and Servera to a number of city centre hotels and restaurants.
Both were fitted with noise-reduction equipment, such as silent roll cages, and noise sensor technology.
Anna Pernestål Brenden, a researcher at KTH’s Integrated Transport Research Laboratory, said ordinarily the Lidl warehouse would deploy several fully-loaded trucks to make deliveries during peak morning rush hours between 6am and 8am, because it was too difficult for a single vehicle to make all the drops in such a short time window.
But in the study, a single truck delivered goods to three stores in central Stockholm between the prohibited hours of 10pm and 6am. It would return to the warehouse three times in the night to be reloaded, and then make its subsequent delivery.
Pernestål Brenden said. “That’s one truck doing the work of three, or in other words – morning commuters are spared having to share the road with three heavy duty trucks.”
The truck on the dedicated Lidl route was found to have a driving speed in off-peak around one-third faster than in the morning peak (31%).
Meanwhile, the Scania working to deliver to multiple city centre hotels and restaurants, was found to have a driving speed 59% higher than in the afternoon peak, as the routes could be planned more efficiently as they did not have to factor in congestion.
Enjoy the silence
On the noise pollution front, the trial wanted to examine whether deliveries were a nuisance to residents.
Drivers all had to follow special rules to ensure the quietest of night-time deliveries, such as no reversing alarms and no talking on mobile phones outside the vehicles.
“It turned out that the noise people complained about was caused mainly by unloading the truck, not driving,” Pernestål Brenden said.
KTH acoustics researchers created a sound recording system that placed microphones in the front and back of the truck.
The front microphones would record when the truck was getting unloaded, so that neighbourhood background noise could also be taken into account.
This allowed researchers to evaluate the mix of sound from both vehicle and environment and give a true picture of what difference the unloading of the vehicle actually made.
They found trucks unloading within city centre environments were not noticeable to residents, with only those in one quieter, outer suburb experiencing noise disruption.
Though it was a small scale study, KTH said there was a strong indication that scaling up off-peak deliveries could increase efficiency for businesses, reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions and make a positive impact on traffic volume during peak hours.
Pernestål Brenden said: “By making small changes, we can improve transport efficiency, reduce congestion, and enable new business models for goods receivers.”
Grid Smarter Cities, which designed the website, said the system will allow drivers to park closely to their delivery point without causing congestion or running the risk of receiving a penalty charge notice (PCN).
Local authorities will decide the fee and which locations are to be used. These can be vehicle- and time-specific to help nudge behaviour into off-peak periods and to prioritise low-emission vehicles, for example.
This can help local authorities manage poor air quality hotspots, incentivise the use of cleaner delivery vehicles, and improve traffic flow across the borough.
Grid Smarter Cities added that Kerb VPS will slash costs associated with administering and receiving PCNs for both councils and operators, as well as reduce fuel through more optimised deliveries and better multi-drop planning capability.
Other benefits include bookable rapid chargers in reserved bays and access to previously difficult-to-reach locations.
“There is overwhelming support for such a solution with significant environmental and economic benefits for commercial vehicle operators and local authorities in the adoption of the solution in comparison with the existing regime of PCNs for illegal parking, which is currently ‘stick with no carrot’,” the Innovate UK project proposal stated.
Grid Smarter Cities will be running the trial towards the end of summer, which is anticipated to take place on the TLRN and in Wandsworth, focusing on high-density loading ‘hotspots’.
Deliveries to car boots
Another delivery idea being trialled under the Innovate scheme is the ‘Car as a Delivery Service’ concept for urban last-mile deliveries.
Car Tap uses a smartphone app to enable consumers to have online goods delivered straight to their car boot using secure keyless vehicle access technology.
This system aims to reduce wasted mileage of redeliveries, but also spread deliveries around the clock to lessen the demand on roads during peak times.
A trial will take place to allow 100 customers of Farmaround to receive deliveries of organic boxes.
Hermes is to begin a trial of self-driving delivery robots in London.
The project is an extension to an operation launched last August in Hamburg, Germany, where three robots are deployed to handle parcel deliveries in the suburbs of Ottensen, Volksdorf and Grindel.
Working with robot creator Starship Technologies, Hermes will offer residents and small businesses in the London Borough of Southwark 30-minute parcel collection time slots for items being returned to retailers, or those being sent through myHermes.
The parcel firm said it wants to use the UK trials to understand how the robots could fit into its range of on-demand collection and delivery options.
Hermes said the self-driving delivery robots offer an alternative to drones, especially in highly developed cities, towns and suburbs where strict aviation laws are in operation.
Each vehicle is 55cm by 70cm and incorporates a secured compartment where parcels with a maximum weight of 10kg can be transported, accessible to consumers through a link generated by a smartphone app.
They have six wheels, can travel up to 4mph and used within a two-mile radius from a control centre, where the vehicles are loaded and charged.
The aim is for the robots to be 99% autonomous in the future, connected to a human operator via the internet and GPS who would monitor several units at the same time.
Hermes CEO Carole Woodhead said: “Starship Technologies is a highly innovative and pioneering firm. We can already see first-hand the success they’ve had with food deliveries in London, and we are excited to team up with them in a bid to revolutionise the home delivery marketplace.”
An urban delivery initiative deployed across Paris by French operator Geodis has reduced its freight journeys by 20% and CO2 by more than 1,000 tonnes a year.
Geodis sales director Kevin Huskie (pictured) told delegates at the Freight in the City Spring Summit that the Distripolis programme is designed to lessen the effect of freight deliveries on an urban environment.
It was developed in 2011 as a way for Geodis to lead by example in promoting more sustainable city deliveries.
As France’s largest logistics operator, with a 40% market share, Huskie said the company believed it had a responsibility to drive change and encourage more sustainable urban deliveries.
Before it implemented Distripolis, Geodis used multiple distribution centres on the outskirts of Paris for its key divisions, such as express parcels, groupage and reverse logistics operations. Each one would send multiple vehicles into the city centre throughout the day.
But with Distripolis, Geodis uses one main consolidation centre on the outskirts of Paris, with goods travelling during the night into smaller city centre ‘blue bases’ of less than 250m².
Own or subcontracted ultra-low-emission vehicles or power-assisted tricycles are used to make the final mile delivery from these inner-city bases.
The advantages to the urban community have been improved traffic flow, due to fewer trucks on the roads; reduced air and noise pollution; a more attractive city centre that still meets local businesses’ needs; and compliance with all local regulations, such as time-restricted deliveries.
Huskie said the initiative had “massively reduced road miles and made a big difference in Paris”.
“The target was to remove 1,700 tonnes of CO2 emissions. In year one, we achieved a 365-tonne reduction of CO2 and are now achieving more than 1,000 tonnes.”
Geodis wants to roll out Distripolis in Lille, Strasbourg and Marseille, and aims to reach every city in France.
However, because the UK marketplace is much more fragmented, Huskie believes collaboration is the key to achieving a similar effect here.