Blog > Last mile delivery
Blog > Last mile delivery
21 April 2022 | 8 min read
The last mile, which links the final storage to the end customer, is particularly challenging in urban areas. These routes are expensive, stressful and difficult to organise for logistics experts. But they also raise a lot of questions among the inhabitants and politicians of large cities. The question is how to manage these different flows for private individuals and professionals without increasing noise and environmental pollution.
AntsRoute has gathered 7 operational solutions, tested worldwide, for cost-effective and environmentally friendly deliveries.
This includes the pooling of vehicles and logistics areas, new supply methods, and a good amount of artificial intelligence to optimise everything!
In this article:
It has never been easy to deliver to customers in an urban environment:
Furthermore, in recent years, cities have adopted increasingly restrictive rules to limit the pollution generated by the transport of goods. The rise of environmental concerns, combined with the somewhat paradoxical rise of home deliveries, leaves them no real choice.
For example, in 2020 the City of London estimated that almost 450 million parcels were delivered in the capital. That’s about one per week for every Londoner…
Traffic jams have worsened since the coronavirus pandemic. The number of e-commerce parcels, due to the multiplication and fragmentation of purchases, has increased by 35% in the British capital.
According to Centre for London, the London’s dedicated think tank, the number of parcels delivered in London is expected to double by 2030! By the same year, The World Economic Forum predicts a 30% rise in emissions from last mile deliveries.
Launched in 2008, the London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) scheme has been extended several times. This scheme, which applies in London-wide to commercial vehicles, imposes increasingly strict traffic restrictions on vehicles considered to be polluting.
The offer by Amazon of free 1-working day delivery for Amazon Prime members had already put pressure on its competitors, who are used to delivery times of 2 to 5 days. But even this ultra-fast delivery seems already outdated!
With its Prime Now offer, which guarantees delivery in less than two hours in London, Amazon has set new standards in terms of ultra-fast delivery. Although the American giant has abandoned this offer for food, many startups have jumped on this emerging market: Gorillas, Flink, Cajoo, etc. All of these companies are competing fiercely to deliver a number of food and hygiene products in less than 15 minutes in an ever-growing number of large cities.
The ultra-fast delivery is a real logistical achievement, whose implementation is even more difficult since the end of widespread teleworking, since it assumes the presence of the buyer at home. While the short-term profitability of these initiatives is questionable, these companies are setting up a new standard that Hervé Street, Managing Director of the French start-up Star-Service, calls “capricious delivery”. However, it is unlikely that consumers who have tried these fast-track services will be willing to go back.
Traffic jams in the city, along with increasing consumer demands, make the economic and environmental cost of the last mile even more expensive. While this final step usually represents 20% of the total cost of transport, this ratio can rise to 50% in the city due to multiple factors:
For small and medium-sized businesses, which account for 80% of the market, the real cost of transport is even more difficult to handle because it is almost never billed to the final consumer. Many distributors choose to underestimate or even eliminate the cost.
From a commercial point of view, they are right, since 3/4 of the buyers decide to cancel their order if the delivery costs seem too high.
But from an economic and environmental point of view, the situation becomes more complicated. As some experts underline succinctly, if the cost of delivery is no longer an important factor in making choices, then the demand for the fastest possible delivery will become infinite to the point of immediacy.
In other words, if hauliers do not want to see these new requirements wipe out their already low margins, they must urgently find solutions to optimise deliveries in town!
Optimising performance on urban deliveries is a particularly complex issue, and there is no single solution. Here is a list of the best practices of the players in the sector, to be adopted according to your size, your profile, and the nature of the goods delivered or collected.
To overcome the issue of land shortage and cost, large private groups are developing solutions for the pooling of logistics flows.
Distribution centres of every size are developing on the outskirts of the European cities:
At the other end of the supply chain, storage and delivery for third parties are developing in the same way. The professionals for whom logistics is not their core business, such as online retailers for example, outsource these steps to experts such as:
These groups are working on pooling and centralising their logistics resources as close as possible to consumers in order to offer flexible and cost-effective deliveries. To stand out in low-emission zones, they are obviously using more environment-friendly fleets.
Another very interesting way of optimising the flow of goods is to use micro-spaces dedicated to the picking of goods, such as:
This type of pooling is doubly virtuous. It not only helps to optimise the use of land in the city, but also limits the number of vehicles on the road, avoiding hundreds of home deliveries each time.
The use of route optimisation software is essential to continue to manage your deliveries in-house. These solutions, which are all based on artificial intelligence, calculate the best route to deliver your customers wherever they are located, taking into account multiple constraints:
Some route optimization applications such as AntsRoute also include extra features that are very useful for improving last mile management, such as :
It is also becoming urgent to move away from the truck by maximising modal shift to more environmentally friendly delivery solutions :
The use of these vehicles, which is essential to get around the constraints of low emission zones, is also beneficial on the commercial side. Did you know that almost 47% of British people are willing to accept a longer delay to switch to carbon-neutral modes of transport?
The traffic jams are too expensive for the logistics professionals, but also for the planet. Driving in traffic jams consumes twice as much fuel and generates 16 times more greenhouse gases than when the traffic is smooth. Several international experiments are providing interesting ways of improving this terrible carbon footprint.
The Netherlands, for example, has tested night-time deliveries by PIEK trucks. To encourage off-peak routes while reducing noise pollution, the country has authorised the use of vehicles with noise peaks limited according to the time slot. The noise level is limited to 65 decibels for all loading and unloading operations between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.
In France, local authorities such as Grand Paris and Bordeaux Métropole are also successfully experimenting with deliveries during shifted hours, early in the morning, in the evening, or even in the middle of the night. And the results are positive, since a single night-time delivery with a 26-tonne vehicle instead of several 7.5-tonne vehicles saves up to 38% in polluting emissions!
Another very profitable way of sustainable urban logistics is to optimise the filling of vehicles.
The first solution is to maximise the loading of the vehicles with the help of a route management software. For example, AntsRoute determines the best route for each vehicle in your fleet based on its maximum capacity.
However, every transport operator is concerned by the problem of parcels that are difficult to stack or filled with…nothing! To finally put an end to this ecological absurdity, companies are experimenting with different solutions to streamline the use of packages:
To understand how some of our customers like Marmelade or Delivening have optimised their deliveries in urban areas thanks to our software, read their testimonials here.