the main alternatives to make last-mile deliveries more sustainable

Since the pandemic, online purchases and, consequently, multiple distribution to meet shipments, they have not stopped increasing and the trend continues to rise.

It is expected that by 2030 only so-called “last mile” deliveries will increase by 30%, and the emissions derived from them are estimated to be will rise by 25 million tons of CO₂.

The demands of speed and efficiency are a real headache for parcel companies. Could deliveries also be sustainable? We review the alternatives.

What are multiple distribution and last mile deliveries?

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One of the most effective systems to comply with the current conditions of online purchases is the multiple Distribution, which consists of combining various logistics warehouses (from the furthest to the closest) and transport methods (from the largest to the smallest).

From the plane, to the train, trucks, vans and/or smaller vehicles for the final leg of the delivery and make sure the order arrives on time.

This last stretch of the order, known as “last mile”, is perhaps the most decisive and faces three main challenges.

According to experts such as the director of the MIT Megacity Logistic Lab, Mattias Winkernbach, these are: higher density and exponential growth of cities, the meteoric growth of online commerce and most demanding customers (“prime” deliveries from one day to the next and even immediate).

The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2030, last-mile deliveries will increase by 30% in the world’s top 100 cities alone. And if no remedy is put in place, this means a considerable increase in polluting emissions.

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Similarly, they anticipate traffic congestion will increase by more than 21%, adding an average of 11 minutes to the daily journey of each passenger, given that there will be more than 36% of delivery vehicles circulating in the center of the cities.

The last mile of the future: more efficient and sustainable

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In his report “The future of the last mile ecosystem”, of 2020, the World Economic Forum, already analyzed 24 interventions that can reduce emissions, congestion and delivery costs in the last urban mile.

Among the options that have the greatest impact on the reduction of emissions according to the analysis, the use of battery-operated or electric vehicles or, in the long term, hydrogen electric vehicles, capable of reducing emissions by 16% and 24% respectively.

For its part, and in addition to the electrification of fleets, the consulting firm Deloitte considers some of the following actions to be the most effective for reducing environmental impact and improving the quality of life in cities:

  • urban hubs: small and agile warehouses in city centers
  • Delivery point networks: smart lockers and ‘convenience points’ such as those already used by some companies such as Amazon, Nacex or SEUR.
  • Technological solutions like digitization of loading and unloading areas.
  • Digital collaborative charging platforms or driving measurement systems and delivery routes.
  • External logistics provider (merchandise distributor specializing in distribution).
  • Deliveries by public transport, bicycle, scooter, even on foot “for high-density areas. population and packages of less than 2 or 3 kg.

In addition, one of the star solutions for a more sustainable last mile delivery in the future is night delivery, because according to its data, it increases the average speed of vehicles by up to 35%, emits 20% less CO₂, reduces delivery times and transport costs up to 10%.

In addition, it increases efficiency “thanks to better access to delivery points, to the fact that there is no congestion, to the fact that vehicles with greater capacity can be used and fewer trips can be made,” according to Deloitte.

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Another of the headaches for companies is get the delivery done on the first try. Each failed delivery, according to PC Predict, costs up to 15 euros. One of the solutions is collaboration with neighborhood stores, seen as ‘convenience points’ or collection points that receive the package and the customer picks it up when it suits them best.

In this sense, the ‘load pooling’ distribution model is based on the creation of a collaborative digital platform sharing expenses and routes. It is used by parcel companies to share delivery routes and the excess capacity of their fleets.

In Spain, according to DGT dataonly 13% of provincial capitals have a comprehensive plan for the mobility of goods, according to data from Idencity.

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Among the examples is Madrid, which is betting on encouraging the change of technology in vehicles, the implementation of logistics warehouses in the city center and around the M-40 or intelligent loading and unloading.

Also Malaga, which has developed urban ecological distribution centers (CUDE) that use the network of car parks in this city for the distribution of goods.

As for the Metropolitan Area of ​​Barcelona, ​​where entry to the most polluting vans has been prohibited since April, it wants to subsidize cycle-logistics projects that facilitate the use of bicycles in last-mile delivery.

According to the shared vision of the Economic Forum and specialized companies, “with a change in the entire ecosystem, interventions could reduce emissions and traffic congestion by 30%, and delivery costs by 25%”, compared to not to intervene.

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I started to play with tech since middle school. Smart phones, laptops and gadgets are all about my life. Besides, I am also a big fan of Star War. May the force be with you!

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