DHL gives out-of-hours deliveries the thumbs up

DHL said it would jump at the chance to expand the amount of out-of-hours deliveries it makes in line with customer demand, but London’s councils need to support the move.

In response to the launch of The Roads Task Force (RTF) report earlier this month, Hugh Basham, director of transport strategy at DHL Supply Chain, said if the vision put forward was realised it would help tackle congestion in the capital.

“The Olympics demonstrated the ability for London’s network to cope with change, and the opportunity for shared user dynamic lanes managed by new and advanced technology to play a major part in improving traffic flows,” he said.

Basham added that recognition that spending on the capital’s roads is vital – and Transport for London’s (TfL) subsequent response and promise to spend £4bn on the network over 10 years – is excellent.

One of the RTF’s key recommendations is shifting freight deliveries out of the rush hour peak, and Basham told MT that, as part of a move to further operational flexibility, DHL would love to be able to run more out-of-hours deliveries, something post-Olympics that it has been forced to scale back by the capital’s councils.

“There were a lot of horror stories ahead of the Games about out-of-hours deliveries, but the industry proved this was not the case,” said Basham.

“At considerable effort and expense, we proved they could be done without disruption. There’s a lot to gain in terms of productivity and efficiency, so DHL would welcome the opportunity to do more out-of-hours deliveries. Ultimately, it is a prize worth having.”

TfL said it will commence additional out-of-hours delivery trials in the coming months to build the case for more flexibility in deliveries in a bid to get London’s 33 autonomous borough councils on side.

Silent night

If a retailer wants to consider handling deliveries outside the traditional peak delivery window, there are numerous hoops to jump through and, until now, the potential benefits have not seemed worthwhile. But the results of the DfT-funded Quiet Delivery Demonstration Scheme (QDDS) trials have shown there are a significant number of benefits available – both commercial and environmental.

Faster round-trip journey times; reduced vehicle turnaround times at stores; better fuel consumption from less time spent stationary, idling in congestion; improved shift productivity from drivers and vehicles; increased product availability in store; less congestion; better local air quality and fewer carbon emissions. To any transport operation, this list of benefits is music to the ears.

The brainchild of the Noise Abatement Society (NAS) and the FTA, the QDDS was set up in November 2009 in conjunction with the DfT to investigate the potential benefits from relaxing delivery curfews for quiet deliveries. After a thorough selection process, trials at six sites belonging to Tesco, Superdrug, Asda, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s, took place over a 15-month period, ending in March this year. Although only four of the trials were completed, valuable lessons were learnt.

Alternative times

The scheme was managed by freight specialists at transport consultants Transport & Travel Research (TTR), with other members of the project team consisting of NAS, the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) and AEA Technology.

Chris Douglas, QDDS project manager and director of TTR, tells MT: “From an operational point of view, out-of-hours deliveries make a lot of sense. If you can run your operation at an alternative time of day where there is less idling time and quicker average speeds, you’re going to save fuel. Rather than try to shoe-horn deliveries into a small, highly-congested window, common sense says we should try to use other delivery windows. It needs to be done in a way that includes best practice – both technological and behavioural.”

James Hookham, MD of policy and communications at the FTA, agrees: “These trials show that quiet night-time deliveries can be done, but it’s not a question of a blanket lifting of existing delivery restrictions as every site is different and has different issues. Sometimes residents’ complaints are justified, sometimes they’re not. We now have a toolkit to show operators and retailers how they can apply to conduct their own night-time trials, which is encouraging for those who want to extend delivery windows.”

The Process

Before each trial was allowed to proceed, a working group was formed for each site, usually consisting of the store manager, local environmental health officer, someone from the QDDS project team, and the logistics/transport manager from the retailer or its third-party operator. The working group would agree the objectives for the trial and NAS would conduct a site assessment report, highlighting the key noise risk areas. In the case of Trial 1 at Sainsbury’s in Bournemouth, Dorset, the key noise pollutants were from roll cage movement, yard gates, the vehicles themselves, and unloading activity.

Driver charter

A series of actions was agreed by the working group and incorporated into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). A driver charter was developed by Sainsbury’s to brief drivers on behavioural practices when delivering to the store during the trial, such as switching off reversing alarms and engines when not moving vehicles. During the trial, weekly reports were circulated and Bournemouth Borough Council arranged for a resident to complete noise logs, which were distributed to the working group members. The members of the group remained in contact during the trial and, on review, the trial was deemed a success.

No complaints were received throughout the trial and an effective working relationship was established between Bournemouth council and Sainsbury’s. Another success was the involvement of ‘direct deliverers’ (bread and milk) in the trial and the willingness to disseminate best practice (including the contents of the driver charter) in their own businesses.

The noise-monitoring results indicated that the introduction of operational best practice can have a minor effect on the whole delivery and loading /unloading procedure. But the major contributors to noise levels remain the vehicle engine on arrival, on-site manoeuvring and departure.

In terms of operational efficiency, Sainsbury’s reported improvements in fuel consumption of 5.7% for night-time operations compared to daytime equivalents. The store also reported trading benefits of night-time deliveries with improved stock replenishment and availability, as well as better utilisation of store staff.

“The successful outcome of the trial demonstrates that working together in this way can deliver sustained results, which all parties can be satisfied with,” says Morag White, environment manager, logistics, at Sainsbury’s. “Following the trial, the delivery times have remained as they were, overseen by both parties, which continue to monitor store delivery performance.”

Lasting legacy

With the London 2012 Olympics heavily affecting deliveries next summer, many retailers need to look at ways around the Olympic Route Network (ORN) restrictions, and night-time deliveries are seen as an option.

“The Olympics are an ideal opportunity for well-managed, well-controlled, out-of-hours deliveries,” says Douglas. “There’s an ideal opportunity with the Olympics to review how deliveries take place and if best practice can be implemented in 2012, hopefully we can create a lasting legacy to service premises.”

Hookham is hopeful the QDDS results will show TfL that there is a workable solution for night-time deliveries. “We’ve pushed the boundaries back a long way with these trials. Retailers that need to extend their delivery window during the Olympics should download the guide and ensure they understand any restrictions in place on their sites. Is it a planning consent; is it a curfew restriction – they need to know why it’s in place so they can find the best way to tackle it.”

Jerry Ward, manager of legal operations at John Lewis Partnership, says: “We have to look at out-of-hours deliveries as we have a Waitrose and John Lewis store opening soon at the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, close to the Olympic Park. We’ve also got a couple of Waitrose stores affected by the ORN.

“We’re trying to get information from TfL about the Olympics so we can plan, but it seems to take a long time to come through to the relevant people. We’ll look at the QDDS guide for retailers,” adds Ward.

Cost case

Wincanton has been running what it calls silent deliveries for WH Smith for the past eight years, and largely manages this through behavioural training rather than expensive quiet kit for its fleet.

Gareth Smith, Wincanton solutions director, says: “We could do more, such as investing in special quiet equipment, but with councils reticent on allowing night-time deliveries, it’s not worth it. We mainly do it through driver training – but that only takes you so far.”

Smith says it is frustrating that London boroughs make their own decisions on delivery curfews. “We might be able to deliver out-of-hours in one borough, but in the next we’re not allowed. We could do with a collective agreement among all the boroughs. That would make it worthwhile for us to invest in sliding doors, for example, rather than close-and-shut doors.

“The work we do for WH Smiths is successful – we don’t have complaints from residents. We support the trials that have been done,” adds Smith.

“For the future of high-street deliveries, we believe 50% of deliveries should be done out-of-hours. We can be more efficient and effective if we’re not caught in traffic, plus there’s less carbon being emitted. Also, there is improved safety as there’s less chance of accidents as there’s less traffic around and fewer cyclists and pedestrians.”

Consolidation centres

Smith predicts that in the future we will see pre-retail consolidation centres outside city centres. “Investing in quiet equipment is a significant capital investment, so perhaps we need to consider shared user activities on the high street. A pre-retail consolidation centre would have the final mile deliveries pre-loaded on high-spec, low-noise vehicles.”

Hookham adds: “If we don’t want all the retail outlets to be built out of town and we want to keep town centres thriving, then it should be made as easy as possible for retailers to receive deliveries.”CM06DHR

Douglas’s advice to retailers and their transport partners is to be realistic about where to consider introducing out-of-hours trials. “There may be too many sensitivities and it won’t be feasible. But for every one that isn’t, there will be lots of sites that will be perfect for quiet out-of-hours deliveries.”


  •  Provide as much in-depth information as possible (in the structure of an application form) to the local authority.
  •  Appoint a competent person to produce a site assessment report to review store delivery practices and to implement improvements to mitigate key sources of noise.
  •  Comply with all elements of the MoU prepared for the trial and ensure all store staff are made aware of the trial and its importance.
  •  Produce a driver charter to remind drivers of their obligations when delivering to where the trial is taking place.
  •  Liaise with the local authority and appoint a competent person to install noise-monitoring equipment for the duration of the trial to demonstrate that noise levels are being monitored.
  •  Engage with local residents before, during and after the trial to establish good communication links and keep residents informed of general store activity.
  •  Collate key data before and during the trial for analysis to assess and present the benefits of the new delivery times on store performance and transport operational efficiency.
  •  Be responsive to local residents’ concerns and make efforts to address complaints.
  •  Ensure own vehicles and those of suppliers do not arrive at the store too early, in advance of the agreed delivery window, and avoid vehicles waiting near to residential properties.
  • For curfews imposed through planning restrictions, retailers need to invest time in completing application forms and assembling supporting documents to ensure full compliance with the statutory processes. Retailers also need to be aware that despite their efforts, there is no certainty that restrictions will actually be revised.
  •  When planning store developments, consider the proximity of service yards and delivery bays to residential properties, effectively designing out potential conflict as far as possible.
  •  Be aware that breaches of existing restrictions or of those in place during the trial may lead to closer scrutiny of their activities by local authorities.
  •  Be aware of the delivery curfew restriction types and develop an understanding of how to deal with each.


Night-time deliveries can save fuel and CO2

Operators can reduce their fuel bills and lower their carbon emissions if they are allowed to make out-of-hours deliveries.

The results of the Quiet Deliveries Demonstration Scheme (QDDS) trials, unveiled last week, show a raft of operational benefits as well as wider gains for local communities.

Developed jointly by the FTA, the Noise Abatement Society, and the DfT, the QDDS involved trials at six sites belonging to Tesco, Superdrug, Asda, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer, and Sainsbury’s.

Although only four of the trials were completed, there were still valuable lessons learnt. Two guides – one for retailers and one for local authorities – have been created.

FTA director of policy and communications James Hookham says: “We now have a toolkit to show how quiet deliveries can be achieved. It’s encouraging for those who want to extend their delivery windows. There are significant benefits to be had – both commercially and environmentally.”

QDDS project manager and director of TTR, Chris Douglas, points out that not every site will be suitable for night-time deliveries so retailers need to be realistic about where they introduce out-of-hours trials.

“But these trials prove that operators can undertake deliveries outside of normal working hours in a well-managed, well-controlled way and not upset local residents.”

The cost of investing in quiet equipment may put off some companies, but Douglas adds: “A small incremental reduction in noise can be achieved by behavioural changes alone.”

Wincanton solutions director Gareth Smith agrees: “For our silent deliveries for WH Smith we have invested only in training drivers on behavioural changes. We could invest in quiet technology but with councils reticent on allowing night-time deliveries it’s not in our interest to make such a huge capital investment in equipment.”

To download the full results, go to See MT 11 July for an analysis of the results.


Love thy neighbour

As noise complaints about operators increase, Roger Brown looks at ways to keep local residents happy

Road transport can be a noisy business, and operators could be vulnerable to noise complaints from nearby residents and businesses.

However, experts tell MT that many noise disturbance problems with neighbours can be tackled if firms adopt a two- pronged approach: better training for drivers and greater investment in noise reduction technology.

Behavioural changes

According to Natalie Chapman, FTA head of policy for the South East, drivers should be encouraged to switch off their engines and refrigerator units when they are in the yard and to stop slamming truck doors or dragging exit gates.

“Companies should consider training to promote behavioural changes among drivers and warehouse staff,” she adds.

Lisa Lavia, MD of the Noise Abatement Society (NAS), believes haulage firms need to ingrain noise reduction procedures in the culture of the business in the same way they do health and safety procedures.

“Because delivery yards have lots of hard surfaces and cavernous structures, noise tends to bounce around and create vibrations through the yard,” says Lavia.

“As a boss, ask your drivers not to scrape their wheels against kerbs, not to have their radios on loud at delivery points, tell them not to shout or throw boxes into the back of vehicles. If possible, give drivers an incentive, perhaps a financial bonus, to do this.”


Person speaking through megaphone © 2000 EyeWire Inc.

Noise reduction measures

  • Switch off engines in the yard
  • Don’t slam doors or drag gates
  • Turn off radios
  • No shouting or throwing objects
  • Fit acoustics sensors and quiet reversing alarms
  • Plant trees to act as a noise barrier


The other obvious answer is to invest in anti-noise technology, but often the cost can discourage hauliers. However, as Chapman points out, alterations to premises and fitting quiet kit to engines and acoustic sensors to trailers can be expensive, “but such measures may prevent costly legal disputes further down the line”.

Lavia adds: “Quiet reversing alarms are easy to fit and worth the investment, as well as investing in new fleets, broadband sound reversing alarms and quiet roller shutter doors.”

But are residents becoming more forthright about airing their grievances?

“It’s a change from years ago; residents are much more likely to complain and complain more effectively than before,” says Lavia. “They will write to MPs and councillors, contact local newspapers and attend meetings.”

Chapman agrees: “People seem more prepared to pick up the phone these days and get the local authority involved.”

Although the NAS has not noticed an increase in noise prosecution cases by councils, Lavia believes there is a trend by council planners – particularly in London boroughs such as Southwark and Westminster – to insert noise-related conditions at the planning stage.

“Noise conditions are there to fix a potential problem,” says Lavia. “However, we find operators are generally very receptive to such ideas because the haulage industry is already a heavily regulated one.”

Objections can be made on environmental grounds such as noise, fumes, pollution, vibration and visual intrusion. Other grounds for complaint include the suitability of the operating centre for the size and number of vehicles and trailers, parking facilities and the safety of the entrance and exit arrangements.

Last month, MT reported on a case that illustrated the willingness of local authorities to crack down on transport operators that breach plan-ning notices.

The three owners of Nijjar Dairies – trading as Freshways – were fined a total of £57,000 (including costs) at Acton Magistrates’ Court for breaches at the company’s depot in Acton, West London.

Planning notices

Nijjar Dairies had ignored Ealing Council planning notices to plant trees to act as a noise barrier and visual screen at the site, authorised for 25 vehicles and three trailers. The court was told how the number of movements at the site sometimes exceeded 1,000 a day.

Councillor Julian Bell, Ealing council leader, says his authority “will not hesitate” to take similar action against transport businesses in the future. “This is a substantial fine for a company that repeatedly ignored planning notices over a prolonged period of time,” he explains. “Had Nijjar Dairies taken the simple actions we advised, it would have avoided this fine.”

Another case saw Cranleigh Freight Services (CFS) appear at a Public Inquiry last month, following an objection from Surrey County Council because of noise complaints from nearby residents. Although CFS won its bid to continue with 70 vehicles and 70 trailers at its Dunsfold Park facility in Surrey, the Traffic Commissioner (TC) imposed restrictions on vehicle movements covering weekends, bank holidays and nights.

Chapman says problems sometimes occur where there is a well established, well run depot in existence but residential properties then get built close to the site.

She adds: “It’s unfair on the company but it is often the new residents who make the complaints.”

Jack Semple, RHA policy director, agrees that new housing developments can present problems for hauliers, but believes the “diversity of haulage premises” must be protected.

He adds: “Any excessive concentration of truck operating sites will lead to excessive mileage and emissions and increase pressure on the availability of lorry drivers.“

However, Ian Baxter, MD at RH Freight, is an enthusiast for more so-called “freight parks,” in the UK, built away from residential areas.

Operator clusters

Barcelona has a logistics zone next to the port area with transport firms located together,” he says. “These areas are designed for transport businesses and have excellent infrastructure links – we need more of them here.”

The FTA’s advice to hauliers is that if a problem should develop, “don’t ignore it, deal with it”.

“It is important for transport firms to talk to residents, discuss the issues and come up with a compromise if necessary,” Chapman explains. “Conversations early on will nip any problems in the bud,” she adds.

The RHA’s Semple says: “We always advise members to adopt a good neighbour policy, minimising disruption where they can, although we would hope members do that anyway.”

Silent night trial a hit with Sainsbury’s

The supermarket’s night-time deliveries get thumbs-up from council

Supermarket chain Sainsbury’s claims its recent trial of night-time deliveries has proved successful and could be replicated elsewhere in the UK.

The three-month pilot took place late last year in Wandsworth, and involved rescheduling two early morning deliveries to the south-west London store to 1.30am and 3.30am respectively, using a vehicle with a variety of noise-reducing measures.

The licence to carry out night deliveries has been extended and the firm is now able to deliver with two vehicles at night, cutting costs and saving time.

A Sainsbury’s spokesman says: “We worked closely with the Wandsworth Noise Abatement Society and the local council.

“The trial was very successful and it demonstrated what can be achieved when we work together. We received no complaints either directly at the store, via the Noise Abatement Society helpline, which was publicised, nor directly to the council – this was the real measure of success.

“We are already working with other councils and are looking to see how we can spread what we have learnt from this trial to other stores.”

Stephen Kelly, Freight Transport Association spokesman, says other authorities and firms looking to implement similar schemes can use the Wandsworth trial as an example of best practice. He adds: “The early indications are that deliveries took much less time than normal, leading to significant savings in both man-hours and fuel consumption. It has gone very well and shows how effective partnership working can be.

“The trial has seen reduced congestion in peak times, reduced noise and emissions, and has received no complaints from local residents.”