4.6.2 - Innovative solutions for a fluid last mile

Version 2


    Companies, transporters, the state and local authorities, confronted with the puzzler of the last mile, innovate and implement new solutions at every level. 


    1) Logistics zones

    • Securing delivery spaces

    According to PIPAME, 80 % of deliveries are done when illegally parked: either the dedicated delivery parking places are occupied by private cars, or these zones are not in the right place, badly planned, or the deliverers find it easier to double park or park in the middle of the street.

    To guarantee access for last mile deliverers to dedicated parking spaces several possibilities are being explored. In particular:

    • Police squad to enforce delivery vehicles only in the spaces reserved for loading and unloading

    Example: In Barcelona a special police squad, on motorcycles and scooters, supervises the 4,500 dedicated delivery parking spaces, and do an inspection tour every hour. The fines range from 60 to 90 euro for all illegally parked vehicles.

    • Shared delivery areas, to optimize urban space

    Example: In 2010 Paris launched 7,000 so-called shared delivery areas: from Monday to Saturday they are reserved for deliveries between 7am and 8pm, and available to private vehicles from 8pm to 7am (as well as Sundays and public holidays). In addition to these 7,000 areas there are a further 2,000 areas reserved exclusively for deliveries.

    • A reservation system to rationalize access to delivery spaces and encourage clean vehicles (priority for reserving).

    Example: Within the framework of the European Freilot program, aimed to reduce by 25 % the energy consumption and CO2 emissions of freight transport, the cities of Bilbao (Spain), Helmond (the Netherlands), Krakow (Poland) and Lyon are serving as experimental laboratories for an online booking system for delivery spaces. In Lyon the scheme operates two zones where luminous panels indicate the name of the business and the time slot that they have reserved.

    • Re-create logistics platforms in urban centers

    This is very often the missing link for the last mile of the supply chain: a platform or distribution center in the city center, to regroup the orders, share a storage area with other transport operators or companies and from there cover the last mile with lighter and cleaner modes of transport. Therefore local authorities, transport and logistics operators are starting to reintroduce in city centers Urban Logistics Spaces (ULS), which were banished by high property prices.

    These spaces can take different forms and these include:

    • Urban Logistics Zones (ULZ), are to be found in cities or urban agglomerations

    Example: In the heart of Marseille, on the Aenc railway site, Sogaris has created in partnership with the French national railway company, SNCF, a 9-hectare urban logistics zone with connections to the port, the motorway, tramway, subway and bus networks. Over 5,000 m2 of the roof is covered with solar panels.

    • Urban Distribution Centers (UDC) cover an entire agglomeration or city center. 

    Example: The city of La Rochelle has built an urban distribution center on the periphery of its historic and commercial center, and all bulk goods delivery vehicles converge on this center and the last mile is assured by a fleet of electric vehicles. With this set up heavy duty trucks have virtually disappeared from the city center (they can only deliver in the early morning between 6am and 7.30am). This scheme was implemented in the framework of the European program Elcidis, which involves 6 large European cities.

    • Nearby delivery areas to serve a district or several districts

    Example: the city of Paris has installed a logistics space in the Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois underground parking. It is managed by La Petite Reine Company, which delivers with power assisted cycles (or cargocycle) in several large French cities. Its fleet of 80 cargocyles delivered a million parcels in 2011, saving 89 metric tons of oil equivalent (toe).

    • Logistics hotels, including distribution activities, tertiary services and office space

    Example: The port of Brussels is soon to start the construction of a 55,000 m2 logistics hotel, combining warehouses (30,000 m2), quay for courier services (8,000 m2) business premises (7,500 m2) and offices (5,000 m2). It represents an investment of 45 million EUR.

    • Encouraging deliveries in off-peak hours

    Example: The port of Los Angeles, in cooperation with the county, the State of California and private transport operators, have set up the Off-Peak program, which imposes financial penalties on container loading and unloading activities during peak hours, and gives an incentive to do these operations at night. Today, 35 % of goods movements, including their delivery to the city, are done at night. 

    2) Multimodality and clean delivery vehicles

    When cities and businesses manage to build logistics spaces near high population centers, they can then develop light, rapid, environmental and efficient modes of transport.

    These include:

    • The new power assisted cycles

    The power-assisted cycle is making a comeback to European cities. Power assisted or electric with an inventive design it took many commercial forms: cyclopolitain, cargo-cycle, vélissime... An irrefutable argument: delivery trucks weigh over a metric ton, transport on average 100 kg of goods and cover around 15 km in its delivery zone. A scooter only weighs 100 kg and can carry a useful load of 180 to 200 kg, and it makes no noise and emits no CO2 emissions.

    Example: TNT, leader of express parcel delivery, has started a service of electric scooters to deliver in several French cities: Lyon, Grenoble, Nancy, Dijon, Paris...

    • The breakthrough for clean utility vehicles

    Electric trucks, hybrid vans, CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) light vans… the market for green utility vehicles is growing rapidly, boosted by two reactors: the soaring price of fossil fuels; the growing demands of the elected representatives and citizens for environmental issues (reducing CO2 and noise emissions). These factors are all the more determining in the last stretch known as the last mile when it arrives in the city center.

    Example 1: In California, UPS, one of the world’s leading package delivery companies, has recently acquired 100 electric trucks to replace its diesel models and renew its fleet. This change will give annual savings of 460,000 liters of fuel.

    Example 2: In France, Casino is to acquire between now and 2015, 200 refrigerated Piek/azote trucks using liquid nitrogen for the cooling system, for a significant reduction in noise and polluting emissions. 

    • Re-emergence of electric trolleybuses

    A pallet on wheels, electric propulsion, operated by a joystick, to deliver in pedestrian areas, and other difficult streets and districts: this is the solution developed by several transport operators, with Chronopost as the pioneer with its Chrono City service. 

    • Public transport to the rescue

    Certain cities are experimenting with the delivery of goods to city centers by public transport, notably tramway and train alternating with passenger trains, or at night. A project of this type has been launched in Paris under the name "tram-fret" or tram-freight: in November and December 2011, the trams filled will parcels will travel between two passenger trams, on the T3 line, to study the feasibility of the operation. Tests will continue in 2013. Key to its success: create goods loading and unloading bays efficient enough to avoid perturbing the passenger service. 

    Example: In Zurich, once a month, a cargo-tram does a round of several points in the city center, to pick up bulky items and to transport them to a site outside the city. The city makes bicycles with trailers available to the urbanites to bring their bulky items to the collection points.

    • Adopt new supply routes for packages; coordinate the different modes of transport (rail, road, fluvial...) to reconcile environmental and economic performances.

    Example: The port of Lille has an innovative project which associates 40 public (retailing industries competitiveness cluster, the urban community, Lomme market of national interest...) and private partners (transport operators, logistics companies, engineering and IT services companies...). Objective: build a multimodal urban distribution center in the port of Lille which would be served by river, rail and road and which would in turn delivery to the local shops and city center.

    • Integrate the needs of logistics upstream when designing buildings and infrastructure, following consultation with local authorities, city planners, architects, transport operators and builders.

    Example: Certain cities (Nice, Paris and Barcelona) have consulted with the major urban planners and property developers operating in their territory, on logistics requirements before passing them as municipal by-laws to be followed in all building projects. In Nice, for example, the land use plan stipulates that every retail outlet should have a delivery zone: two car parking spaces for every 300 m² of their retail net floor area. 

    • Sharing the last mile with the customer

    The idea that the customer could cover some of the last mile by going to a pick up point for their packages that is easily accessible for the transport operators and where they could share services and costs is gaining ground. This is the principle which underlies numerous urban distribution solutions:

    • Pick-up points

    Pick-up points are well developed in France where it was started by the giants of the mail order sector. With this system the customer collects his order from a nearby shop or one of the distributor’s own sites. Among the main players are: Mondial Relay (European leader with 23,000 pick-up points), ColiPoste, Kiala, A2pas, Relais Colis, Ici Relais...

    • Click & Drive

    A concept in full expansion: the customer makes his purchases online via the internet site of a mass distribution brand, he then goes to collect his order in the company’s dedicated pick-up point, often adjoining the nearest supermarket.

    Example: According to a study by the Kantar Worldpanel consultancy, Click & Drive purchases represented, in July 2012, 2.5 % of French household expenditure on consumer goods and fresh products. This market share should more than double and then rise to 6.1 % by the end of 2015.

    • Electronic lockers

    These are high-technology devices, and for the most part they are still in the experimental stage, associating electronic lockers, where the customer can pick up his package, with a security access code, and an information system which alerts the warehouse concerned, manages the billing, etc. Germany is one of the most advanced countries in this field. The Deutsche Post and its subsidiary DHL have deployed across Germany several thousand "Packstations", electronic lockers in the shape of yellow street furniture, used by almost 2 million people to pick up and send packages.

    Example: In Dortmund, Germany, the Tower 24 is an automated collection point where private citizens and businesses, alerted by an SMS message or email to come and pick up their parcel.

    • Sharing facilities

    Operators and local authorities are developing shared solutions to address more efficiently the complexity and the cost of the last mile. This cooperation is being deployed along the following lines:

    • Bring together, around a common distribution center, the operators serving a city or district: carriers unload all goods at the same warehouse, before they are delivered to their final destination by a fleet of vehicles, more often electric ones, operated by a subcontractor. This would result in optimized rounds, a drastic reduction in the number of delivery vehicles – and associated noise nuisances – in the city center.

    Example: In Yokohama, Japan’s second most populated city, the Motomachi district has a shared distribution center which delivers with carbon-free vehicles (CNG and electric) 80 % of the local goods, which is roughly 1,500 packages daily. The distribution center was the outcome of cooperation between the Yokohama city hall and the local Motomachi shopkeepers’ association.

    • Improve the efficiency of the information system to better understand the complexity of the last mile, with its great variety of final destinations, the risk of failed deliveries and the need to have a parcel tracking system.

    Example: The Italian municipality of Padua has built an urban distribution center, City Porto, which has a fleet of electric and CNG vehicles making deliveries in the city center, a zone of limited traffic circulation with an area of 830 000 square meters, of which 150,000 square meters are pedestrian zones. In cooperation with the 50 transport operators who use this service, the manager of City Porto has introduced a scanning system for the packages, to ensure full traceability between the warehouse and the final destination. Overall, the number of delivery vehicles circulating in the city center has been reduced by 90 % over a five year period.

    According to the calculations of the city of Padua, 1 euro invested yielded direct or indirect gains of 4 euro.