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.


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!




Leeds council to explore impact of diesel-powered refrigeration units on air quality

Leeds City Council is to investigate the impact on air quality that diesel-powered transport refrigeration units (TRUs) have on its urban areas.

Working with clean, cold technology firm Dearman, the council has been awarded a £150,000 Defra grant to identify the level of harmful emissions from TRUS and encourage uptake of cleaner alternatives.

TRUs are typically used by supermarkets and logistics operators to keep food produce cold while in transit. The cold is often powered by a second diesel engine, with an estimated 84,000 TRUs on Britain’s roads.

Dearman estimates that over the course of a year, a TRU powered by a secondary diesel engine can emit up to six times as much nitrogen oxide (NOx) and almost 30 times as much particulate matter (PM) as a Euro-6 HGV engine.

In Leeds, it is estimated that TRUs emit 71 tonnes of nitrogen oxide and 9.5 tonnes of particulate matter per year.

Replacing Leeds’ diesel-powered TRUs with zero-emission alternatives would be the NOx equivalent of removing 2,446 Euro-6 HGVs from the roads, and the PM equivalent of removing 13,024 HGVs, according to Dearman.

The project

Leeds will use the funding to measure emissions from conventional fossil-fuelled TRUs in real-life operations, estimate the number of refrigerated vehicles in use and understand typical duty cycles.

Findings will be analysed with an evidence base established and tools developed for helping reduce the impact of TRUs on local air quality.

The council will  look to install the supporting refuelling infrastructure to enable a multi-vehicle field trial of a zero-emission liquid-nitrogen-powered cooling system developed by Dearman. 

It is hoped this will also add to encourage wider uptake of the technology.

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council, said: “Reducing pollution from refrigeration units in the city could see a significant improvement to our air quality.

“This project could lead to significant improvements, not just on Leeds roads, but those around the country.”

Dearman deputy chief executive Michael Ayres added: “We have developed a patented zero-emission engine, currently undergoing advanced road trials, which would significantly cut emissions compared to polluting diesel engines.

“In Leeds and around the country, there are growing calls for tighter regulation of transport refrigeration units. This means the industry needs to start preparing and this is where Dearman can help.”


Urban Transport Group urges DfT to take a more ‘ambitious’ approach to freight strategy

The Urban Transport Group (UTG) has urged the government to take a more “ambitious, open and forward-thinking” approach to freight strategy.

Speaking to ahead of next month’s Spring Summit in Birmingham, MD Jonathan Bray said the DfT had left a “big hole” where freight strategy should be, with more work needed to address this issue.

He added. “Historically, it’s tended to be about responding to short-term issues and working closely with existing freight lobbies.

“With a lot of the interesting things happening on freight, the DfT is a bit of a bystander really.

“I think the DfT needs to take a more ambitious, open and forward-thinking strategic approach to freight.”

UTG has been working with cities to help address this lack of national focus, so they can see the benefits from working freight into their strategic transport plans.

It has undertaking research into the challenges from increasing levels of urban deliveries, and highlighted actions they could take to mitigate the impact in its report Delivering the Future.

“We’ve tried to make the freight debate more accessible to decision-makers in cities. I think the freight debate has a tendency to be locked into a lot of detail and long lists of issues,” said Bray.

“Senior decision-makers only have so much bandwidth. They want the simple way forward, not just a list of 120 problems.”

UTG suggests a formula that can be adopted in any city: transport more long-haul freight into the sub-regions by rail or water – although not ignoring the capacity constraints for modal switch – while ensuring last-mile deliveries have as little impact as possible on the urban environment.

Living cities

Cities are also increasingly setting transport strategies in response to the ‘place-making’ agenda, said Bray: people wanting places for people, with less space for vehicles, no matter what their purpose.

Far more emphasis is being placed on the urban realm and more value is being placed on city centres, all of which is exacerbated by a need to address air quality issues.

“I think the air quality imperative will get more acute with the third version of the government’s air quality strategy. I suspect it may be a more serious piece of work than the previous two,” added Bray.

“What’s happening as well is that the rest of the available road space is being squeezed and all the lobbies want their space: the active travel lobby – cycling isn’t going away and nor should it; the bus lobby is very vigorous in wanting their bus lanes; and freight and logistics need space to deliver.”

“The squeeze is on roads capacity,” warned Bray and a wider debate needed about future streets, which bring together both place-making and urban transport planners.

Embracing change

He wants to encourage the freight and logistics sector to become more engaged in the vision for future cities and the wider service agenda, as there could be plenty of opportunities for operators.

“The freight and logistics sector is very quick to take on new tech and innovation, but when people are talking about smart cities, they are thinking about apps and Uber and start-ups,” said Bray.

“The freight sector is naturally very preoccupied with logistical operations, but I think it could also present itself as a partner in the move towards smarter cities in some of these initiatives.”

A little history

UTG brings together Britain’s largest metropolitan transport authorities under one organisation to address both passenger and freight movements.

Members include the likes of Transport for West Midlands, Transport for Greater Manchester and Transport for London (TfL).

Historically, the work undertaken by UTG – formerly known as the Passenger Transport Executive Group until January 2016 – had predominantly focused on passenger travel.

However, as more and more cities began to move towards combined authorities, UTG realised a more holistic approach to all modes of travel, including freight, was needed and a name change.


At the same time that UTG shifted its focus, TfL came on board as a full member and brought with it “a huge amount of expertise”.

“They are one of the most admired transport authorities in the world right now. Certainly when I speak to people in other parts of the world they always speak very highly of London.

UTG takes a specific approach to its coverage of freight, looking to ensure it is included in the wider debate about what is happening to transport in cities.

Bray says that for too long freight has remained at the edges of transport planning debate, and its inclusion in city-wide strategies is long overdue.

“And I think that we’ve come a long way in a short space of time to mainstreaming freight within cities’ transport debates. It’s no longer kept at the margins as a fringe topic,” he adds.

UTG enables cities to share best practice and learn from other regions about the best ways to address urban freight deliveries.

“We offer cities the opportunity to work together and piggyback off existing research rather than have to do it all again themselves,” says Bray.



Turkish electric van-maker BD Auto launches into UK market

BD Auto and Energy is to begin offering its range of all-electric vans in the UK this spring.

The Turkish manufacturer has been producing pure electric LCVs and passenger models for more than eight years and has more than 400 vehicles in operation in seven European countries.

It believes the time is now right for UK operators to adopt electric vehicle technology, driven by greater pressure from cities to improve air quality and reduce transport emissions.

BD Auto uses base vehicles from major OEMs – ranging from 3- 4.25 tonnes GVW – and gives them a new powertrain and control system in its Turkish factory.

Customers are given a full warranty, servicing and maintenance package, as well as financing and lease options.

Vans are eligible for the government’s Plug-in Van Grant, are also exempt from paying London’s congestion charge.

Chris Jones, head of sales at BD Auto and Energy, said he had been meeting with key fleet customers and demonstrating products in London over recent months and is “convinced that this is the time to introduce” the vans to the UK.

“The current information surrounding diesel engine pollutants and the effect on London’s air quality means that the requirement for electric commercial vehicles has never been greater,” he added.

“We are pleased to offer a zero-emission solution to business users in London as BD Auto vehicles are 100% electrically powered and produce no pollutants as well as having an excellent working range and large carrying capacities.”


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.



Transport for West Midlands looks to keep road network ‘running at its maximum’


Birmingham needs to think radically if it is to reduce congestion, lower noise and improve air quality – without damaging the strength of the regional economy – according to Transport for West Midlands.

Speaking exclusively to, Laura Shoaf, MD of Transport for West Midlands, said: “Being at the centre of the road network and of the rail network gives us a competitive advantage in terms of attracting and retaining businesses, and freight plays a huge part in the regional economy.

“We have real air quality issues in the region, and we are mandated to address that,” she added. “The public have the expectation that they have a right to breath clean air.”

However, she added: “Businesses need roads to move freight to market. Moving non-essential road journeys off the road and providing well-priced, public transport alternatives will mean the network runs at its maximum.”

Shoaf is chairing a debate on ‘How to influence customers’ delivery expectations’ at Freight in the City Birmingham on 1 March and said that she would “certainly be interested” in hearing the views of the panellists when it comes to reducing the impact that final-mile deliveries have on congestion, noise and air quality.

She cited the use of electric-powered tricycles in trials in cities in Scandinavia as the kind of radical solutions required to address such challenges.

  • The Freight in the City Spring Summit takes place on 1 March at Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham. It is free to attend, so make sure you reserve your place today.

Effective last-mile freight is vital to support growth, says Transport for West Midlands


Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) has said applying “ingenuity” to the region’s transport system is essential to keep pace with surging business and population growth.

Speaking ahead of next month’s Freight in the City Spring Summit in Birmingham, Mike Waters, head of policy and strategy at TfWM, said effective last-mile operations would play a vital role in this aim.

“As a dense urban area built on a legacy of manufacturing, which is regenerating into a new generation of advanced manufacturing and engineering, having effective last-mile freight solutions in place is becoming increasingly vital to the West Midlands,” he said.

As well as the region’s urban roads network needing to support a complex existing supply chain that drives a major proportion of UK export GDP, Waters added it was also essential to meet the needs of a growing residential population.

Indeed, the West Midlands has forecast significant urban population growth over the next few decades that will add the equivalent of a city the size of Liverpool to the region.

“At the same time we are the centre of the UK’s automotive R&D activity and inventing and exporting solutions to the rest of the globe,” Waters said.

“Our challenge is simple – we must apply the engineering ingenuity we are exporting to our own transport system in order improve the efficiency of both.”

The West Midlands Freight Strategy document has been published, and contains action plans to promote more sustainable logistics movements to support economic growth across the region.

Martin Reeves, chief executive of the West Midlands Combined Authority and Coventry City Council, will be speaking about work to improve the region’s transport system at Freight in the City Spring Summit on 1 March at Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham.

This free-to-attend event brings together key decision-makes from the public and private sector to debate the challenges and solutions to adopting cleaner, safer and more efficient urban freight movements. Book your free place today!