The world’s population has grown from just over two billion in 1950 to approximately eight billion today. More than half of the people in the world now live in urban areas.
A growing urban population, discovering new patterns of consumption
Recently, in countries with highly developed consumer cultures, this explosion of the urban population has been associated with new ways of consuming, in particular online shopping. These have had an effect on logistics in cities. The authorities are increasingly facing a series of problems linked to urban mobility, specifically for delivery vehicles. Apart from the obvious problem of congestion, the most negative consequences are related to noise and pollution.
These municipal and regional authorities often struggle to come to terms with the problems they face. They also lack sufficient knowledge about the logistical challenges of delivering more packages to more and more businesses and customers.
It is they who define the rules and regulations that govern the cities. However it is private logistics companies who lead the way in terms of knowledge and experience. It is they who are driving change.
Decisions need to be taken quickly. The level of pollution generated by these activities, estimated at 30% of urban pollution, risks increasing and improvements in urban delivery are essential given that 20% of city traffic is today generated by logistics activities.
Consumers expect improvements on all levels
There is also a clear demand from citizens and consumers to make substantial and meaningful changes. They themselves adopt more responsible purchasing behaviours and delivery choices. They are willing to adapt and to accept alternative solutions. It is the responsibility of logistics stakeholders to provide the solutions that satisfy the customers’ needs and at the same time mitigate the negative aspects of city life.
The Covid-19 crisis has undeniably focused the attention of the public and politicians alike on supply chains. Other trends have also accelerated such as the adoption of e-commerce reinforcing local distribution networks, client expectations regarding speed and virtual real-time tracking of deliveries, innovative delivery methods and the inclusion of small businesses in the at-home delivery chain.
The current model has to change
It is becoming urgent to react and develop a new model. A model with closer cooperation between logistics transporters and public authorities to serves the end customer.
The current model based on each distributor having their own logistics infrastructure and transport strategies is neither economically sustainable nor environmentally satisfactory. The solution could require a single logistics operator for a specific sector of a city. And, as the urban logistics subsidiary’s CEO Alfonso López explains, “the development of collaborative micro hubs could be the opportunity to initiate the required collaboration between the various stakeholders involved in urban distribution.”
Municipalities must play their part by implementing measures that only they can; legislating to organise and reserve the limited space within the city required for new logistical solutions. But, Alfonso López continues, “to get things moving logistic operators should be setting up initial collaborations themselves, to get started ahead of the authorities”.
National government also has a role to play. Without national coordination there will be reduced inter-regional flexibility and a disincentive for the private sector to invest.
Continuing innovation and investigation are essential
Boosted by European Union programmes, municipalities have started to produce overall strategies for urban logistics and, with the logistics sector, are trialling and developing the logistics solutions of tomorrow.
FM Logistic, through its city logistics solution, is an enthusiastic participant in these programmes. Working with the city of Madrid, we investigated the effectiveness of urban consolidation centres (UCC) using electric vehicles. By comparing flows from a single suburban warehouse to those combined with a UCC or Proximity Hub, initial results show emissions and congestion were both reduced.
Another project in Madrid developed and tested a prototype of a 12-ton ultra-low emission electric cargo vehicle under real conditions.
The technical solutions are effective but are only part of the solution
“At FM Logistic, we understand the current problems cities are facing in terms of mobility and emissions, and we are committed to being a part of the search for new solutions to more sustainable urban delivery and micro logistics”, says Alfonso López.
But to make a greater impact, the innovation that is now needed is legislative. This has to come from local and regional governments, supported in a true spirit of cooperation, by the hands-on expertise of the logistics sector.
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