The majority of local councils have some form of freight action plan or road transport strategy in place, which involves working together with the local freight industry and businesses to ensure the delivery of more effective and efficient freight operations across the region. These strategic plans are becoming more sophisticated and gaining more prominence within a council’s operation.
Christopher Walton talks to TfL’s Ian Wainwright to discover why the industry needs to embrace out-of-hours deliveries.
There have been several milestones in the evolution of logistics: privatisation; the curtainsider; containerisation; palletisation. Then there has been primary and secondary distribution and, more recently, multichannel distribution. Now the industry is on the cusp of the next step change. Out-of-hours deliveries need to become the norm in the very near future, and the evolution is under way.
MT spoke to Ian Wainwright, head of freight and fleet at TfL, to get a better understanding of why rescheduled deliveries will be the industry standard, and not the exception, and why London is leading the change, not just in the UK but around the world.
“During the London 2012 Olympic Games we proved that it is possible to do out-of-hours deliveries, that they do not necessarily disturb people,” said Wainwright.
“There is often a lack of understanding between the different parties. Operators frequently do not challenge their customers because they are not in the position to; they need to explain ‘we can do this more efficiently and we can save you money’.”
Wainwright believes that TfL has a role to play in squaring the circle. Although the two weeks of the London Games created an urgent need for retiming deliveries, there is an even more pressing concern for out-of-hours deliveries. “Lots of people understood that there was a burning platform [during the Games]. It had to be different. We are now in a situation where, by 2031, we will go from 8.3 million people in London to 10 million; another 1.7 million people – a 15% increase.
“If everyone is to have the same standard of living, freight activity has to go up by 15% and the internet accounts for 20% of orders. So more stuff is coming in. And it’s coming in between 7am and 11am,” Wainwright explained.
“Retailers are making decisions about properties on a footfall basis,” he said. “Nobody usually cares about the logistics, and they pick the site and logistics thinks ‘how are we going to deliver to that?’”
To that end, TfL has confirmed three new out-of-hours delivery trials are to start in London. The trials will focus on three distinct areas: the possibility of a long-term change in delivery behaviour; options to change the delivery conditions imposed through the planning process; and demonstrating the use of various pieces of quiet delivery equipment. The first of the trials includes nine retail stores; four in inner London and five in outer London, and will involve deliveries earlier or later in the day than those currently being made.
“There is a lot of misconception in London that you cannot deliver out of hours, which is wrong. There are individual sites where you cannot deliver because of a planning condition, or a noise abatement notice, or a tenancy agreement, and a range of things about the technical aspects of delivering to that site. However, London is open for business overnight and we want to enable that to happen in a way that doesn’t disturb residents,” said Wainwright.
“The London Lorry Control Scheme only applies to vehicles over 18 tonnes and it is only a routeing scheme. So while you may have to go a different route to get around it, it won’t stop the delivery. There is still this feeling, because the scheme was introduced in 1986 as a ban, that it bans deliveries. It does not ban deliveries. So we have got to work on perceptions,” he conceded.
When TfL revealed last autumn that it was launching out-of-hours delivery trials, it also created an Out-of-Hours Consortium, comprising: three London boroughs, two retailers, the FTA, the RHA and London Councils. The group aims to demonstrate best practice and offers guidance on collaboration and new ways of working. Regular progress reports will be published.
“We want to look at how we can potentially move some supermarket activity [to different times of day],” Wainwright said of the consortium. “Supermarkets want flexibility in terms of delivery times and a lot of the stores they have, such as convenience stores, are not sites you would do 24/7.
“We are having some local successes but it is slow and we are not going into any details about that until the Quiet Cities global summit [see box] because we need to get the relationships right to know which boroughs and supermarkets need to talk. Be it about parking, driver behaviour, or planning.”
Back to normal
Wainwright said that after the Games a lot of operators and customers reverted to what they knew. All the success of out-of-hours deliveries during the Games was congratulated as a job well done as normal working practices resumed. “There was a willingness with the Games to challenge customers and tell them they were not going to receive goods for two weeks [unless they were retimed]. Now we are saying that within 20 years the need for retiming deliveries will be every day,” said Wainwright.
Change for the better
But customers and operators – be it hire and reward or own-account – do not want to hear that their way of doing business is wrong. “It isn’t wrong, but it can change for the better,” Wainwright said.
“We have to give people enough information so they understand what is coming, so they can make the right investment and recruitment decisions to enable them to deal with how cities are in the future. And, yes, this is London today but increased densities in terms of residential developments will happen in Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, and any other city. People will have to get used to that.
“A lot of the solutions that exist will make Barnstable or Bury St Edmonds or Burton-on-Trent nicer places too if people are doing things at different times of the day,” he added.
The state of the global economy and its subsequent effect on public spending, together with the environmental imperative that has made carbon reduction a top priority certainly hasn’t hindered the progress of night-time deliveries in Europe.
There is an increasing appetite on the Continent for this simple win-win solution, which improves efficiency, environmental performance and seems to have no drawbacks.
It was with a sense of pride that I, along with the Noise Abatement Society (NAS), the DfT, Transport and Travel Research (TTR) and Sainsbury’s, shared the results of the recently completed Quiet Deliveries Demonstration Scheme (QDDS) with a delegation from the FTA’s Danish equivalent, International Transport Denmark (ITD). Pride, because this simple concept that actually started in Holland has been tirelessly championed and rigorously tested in the UK, sparking interest beyond these shores.
Like FTA, the ITD is not afraid to spearhead initiatives that will ultimately save the businesses in its membership money and time and allow them to meet their own carbon-reduction targets. The Danish contingent, which included the Danish Transport Authority, Business Link South Denmark and a representative from the bread company Lantmännen Schulstad, was keen to understand how the results of the QDDS could translate into Denmark, taking into account the practicalities, benefits and challenges of delivering goods out-of-hours that were found in the UK.
One of the most obvious challenges to overcome was ensuring that the local residents’ right to a good night’s sleep were not compromised by lifting late-night or early-morning delivery bans. Lisa Lavia, MD of the NAS, has played a massive part in ensuring this remains a central component of night-time deliveries. It is partly this background of responsibility for one’s community that has driven its success. Lisa’s enthusiasm for rolling out the scheme is testament to that.
“Interest in the QDDS trials is increasing, with several countries seeking to adapt the scheme locally. We know that if best practice is shared and strict guidelines are adhered to, night-time deliveries are an efficient and pragmatic solution to a growing problem.”
By saving fuel and time, the investment in quiet equipment, such as reversing alarms, and the driver training needed to make night-time deliveries quiet, represents a solid return. But it’s not just businesses that can benefit, everyone would gain from lower road congestion, cleaner air and a more reliable supply chain. Indeed, earlier this year, transport minister Mike Penning backed night-time deliveries, declaring them a ‘win-win’ for the environment and business, stating that if done correctly, delivering out-of-hours need not be a nuisance to residents.
This ministerial buy-in was not lost on ITD’s chairman and owner of the transport company HP Therkelsen, Mogens Therkelsen. “We were impressed by the rigorous and scientific nature of the QDDS trials and it was invaluable to learn first-hand how FTA, NAS and the DfT worked together to create fair and meaningful trials.”
With the Olympics challenging London’s supply chain next summer, there is also a sense of timeliness underpinning the QDDS. How can we deliver more freight with less time to do so? By lifting lorry bans and allowing deliveries to be made at night.
Clearly there is a strong appetite among the Danes to introduce night-time delivery trials similar to those we completed earlier this year. The demonstrable environmental, economic and road safety benefits of delivering goods out-of-hours are hard to ignore and I am sure the FTA will be working more closely with Mogens and the others to help them develop a robust methodology that works for them.
See our night-time delivery feature inside the Olympic supplement, free with this issue of Motor Transport.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
Proof of the success of urban consolidation centres is difficult to find, yet local authorities are lining up to announce their interest in them.
Since the turn of the century, the increasing use of the phrase ‘urban consolidation centre’ (UCC) among local authorities has also reflected a significant growth in plans to build these logistics facilities.
But despite the theoretical benefits that these ambitious initiatives are capable of, there is still a startling lack of evidence to prove their efficacy one way or another.
In fact, their proliferation within local transport plans, seemingly as an environmental panacea, prompted one analyst, who wishes to remain anonymous, to suggest that UCCs were nothing more than a “gimmick”.
This scathing remark is not easily dismissed. According to a transport paper published last summer by the University of Westminster, “to date there has been a lack of evidence-based information upon which potential operators [of UCCs], be they logistics providers or local authorities, can base decisions as to the viability of such initiatives”.
Professor Michael Browne, who helped write the paper, says one problem is that UCC operators struggle to put a value on the reduction in vehicle/km achieved for customers. But of more concern is the funding issue. “To get one started, you need public funding,” he says. “But then can you actually over a certain period of time get it to be self supported?”
For the moment, the answer to this remains unclear – there is little evidence of a consolidation centre being financially viable in the medium- to long-term. But this hasn’t stopped Glasgow and York joining other cities, such as Southampton and Birmingham, in announcing their intentions to look into the potential of developing a UCC to reduce congestion.
UCCs have evolved from the basic trans-shipment centres that emerged 30 years ago to become sophisticated operating centres situated on the edge of cities today. Acting as the middleman between the haulier delivering goods into them and the retailer, construction site, or other business that ultimately receives the freight, they can consolidate deliveries and offer value-added logistics and retail services for the customer. In simple terms, they strive to reduce the numbers of lorries delivering into congested city centres by using one truck to carry out multi-drops.
When considering consolidation centres, many quote Bristol’s as a success. It has seen a large drop in vehicle trips into the city centre for the 64 businesses within the Broadmead retailing district signed up to the scheme. And there is the potential for dozens more if negotiations with the developers of a new, huge shopping regeneration project in the city prove fruitful. Ultimately, these negotiations will be key to the scheme’s future success.
The city council made the most of available European funding from the beginning and launched the UCC as a pilot, with retailers able to join on a voluntary basis. The trial proved a success and was extended, eventually beyond the end of the time limit imposed by the European Commission’s Vivaldi fund. DHL-Exel runs the operation.
However, the UCC has now reached a critical period where Bristol City Council is reducing its own subsidies each year and success is dependent on retailers paying to be involved in the scheme. The council’s transport planning officer, Tim Hatgood, says: “In terms of the funding, the council helps support it through its revenue budget. The council is happy to subsidise it, but wants to see it falling. It’s a constant year-on-year reduction.”
Hatgood says the exact amount of funding is commercially sensitive, but concedes that currently it is 65% of the total revenue invested. The remaining 35% comes from two sources: one is another European grant, but Hatgood says the majority now comes from retailers.
He adds: “The biggest problem we have in Bristol is participation by retailers on a voluntary basis. The ideal scenario would be similar to that at Heathrow, where there is a landlord. That’s got to be the future. We don’t have any way to force customers to pay.”
Heathrow is possibly the only other retail UCC that can be described as a success, but its situation is unique: as the landlord, BAA insists that the retailers within its terminals use its dedicated consolidation centre. According to Browne’s 2007 paper, it also has set ground rules under which DHL-Exel manages it.
“It appears that imposed UCC solutions are successful only if the imposing organisation is able to control or strongly influence all the players,” the report says. “In contrast, voluntary schemes seem often loosely constituted and made up of variety of players and vested interests. In some cases, these schemes appear to have been established with only limited research and analysis. As a result, in the absence of early success, the arrangements quickly dissolve.”
Over in Norwich the picture is not quite as rosy. Mindful of the revenue Bristol City Council invests into its UCC, Norwich County Council decided from the outset that retailers must pay to use the UCC. This has resulted in a “challenging” sales process, where the operator of the UCC, Foulger Transport, has had to convince companies of the benefits without them experiencing a trial.
Another issue that has split opinion among councillors is an initiative dreamed up to entice retailers on board: use of the bus and cycle lanes in Norwich only by Foulger lorries making deliveries to retailers signed up to the scheme.
At present, the UCC has two customers on board, with negotiations taking place with two more. Foulger Transport business development manager Graham Mayes says selling the benefits of the UCC have proven difficult: “When we started we didn’t fully realise the time it takes to get to talk to some of the decision makers. I had a meeting last week with one company, [yet] we started talking to them back in August.
“It’s taken about eight or nine months to get to the point where we can sit down and talk about it,” he adds.
Fundamental to many local authorities’ plans for UCCs are the environmental benefits that can be achieved. Hatgood says this has helped in getting retailers involved over in Bristol, but Mayes is not convinced: “Generally it does [work]; people want to be on board with green initiatives, but not if there’s a significant change in service levels or a significant change in cost. At that point the green issue goes right out of the window.”
Another problem is the perceived commercially sensitive information held by a logistics firm running a UCC. If Aberdeen suddenly announces it wants to launch a UCC, but wants existing operators to share information with it on how to run it, who’s going to help? As Mayes says: “How is that knowledge and experience shared? How do you build the awareness and where do you get the expertise from?”
York City Council has become the latest authority to announce its interest in building a UCC, in order to ease the serious congestion problems councillor Christian Vassey says the city endures. He is optimistic of the centres’ green credentials and believes their success relies on a ‘stick and carrot’ approach; allowing UCC customers to publicise the benefits of their environmentally-conscious commercial decisions, as well as a stick in the form of a low-emission zone, or congestion charge, which might encourage take-up and also fund the centre.
Vassey says: “One of the triggers to making this change happen is to make sure that the public at the end of the line can see which retailers have bought into this, and ensure the end user can make choices between those retailers being more environmental and those that aren’t.”
Vassey says his driving mechanism is purely the environmental benefits he believes are achievable through UCCs. He admits the presence of UCCs within local transport plans are borne out of a desire by local authorities to “second guess what the latest hot topic is within government” and therefore attract funds.
He also argues that whether a UCC is viable or not misses the point: “Climate change is not waiting for us to get our act together. Tackling climate change is about taking steps. Whether [UCCs] answer everything or not is irrelevant. Quite a lot of what we are doing now is intermediary. It may be they operate for 10 years and then we find a better way to do things.
“What matters most is we start doing stuff. It’s so easy to waste decades talking about stuff and not doing it.”
Westminster University’s transport studies group was also involved in a 2005 report, commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT) into the use of UCCs. When asked if it had acted on any of the recommendations made in the study relating to their future success a DfT spokesman hints at the government’s continuing concerns: “While UCCs can have local benefits, there are other considerations to take into account,” he explains. “These include the effect on the supply chain from moving traffic to other parts of the network and the type of retail or other area it is servicing. The costs and benefits of operating centres are variable and depend on the ability to channel economic savings back into operating costs.”
The spokesman continues: “It is clear that decisions concerning the development of UCCs have to be taken at a local level and the responsibility rests with local rather than central government. However, where we see there are tangible benefits, we will continue to promote the concept with our industry and local government stakeholders.”