Sustainable urban distribution, how can we achieve this?

Thu | 10 Dec 2020 | Simacan Solutions

Sustainable urban distribution, how can we achieve this?

We are all familiar with the overcrowded image of centres in the big cities. All traffic jostles where lorries have difficulty manoeuvring between the jumble of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. This applies not in the least to urban distribution, that is, the distribution of goods to their destinations within city limits. The current distribution to the old inner cities in particular must clearly change, otherwise it will eventually get stuck. In addition, urban distribution must be more sustainable, smarter and cleaner. This requires creative and smart solutions. What improvements can already be discovered in inner-city areas for optimal and sustainable transport?

More vehicle movements in urban areas

Economic growth and logistics movements are putting pressure on the quality of life and road safety in large cities. If we look at Amsterdam for example, we see that there are approximately 25,000 delivery vans and about 6,000 lorries on the A10 ring road every day to supply the city centre.

And this number is still growing, especially now that the number of deliveries has increased exponentially due to the corona virus. The city is seeing more and more vehicle movements from and for supermarkets, businesses, construction sites, parcel services and meal deliverers, with customers making ever-increasing demands on delivery speed, time, location and sustainability. As a result, the need for innovative city logistics is high. And this is not only the case in Amsterdam, but applies to the entire metropolitan area in our country.

Sustainable urban distribution

Sustainable urban distribution is a term often heard in this context. It means that the city is being supplied with zero emission vehicles. A good means of achieving this is process optimisation. Large lorries make way for zero emission vans and delivery vans and light electric lorries or cargo bikes. 

In order to prevent traffic jams, noise pollution and unsafe situations in cities, reforms in urban distribution are urgently needed. It must become smarter, safer, quieter and cleaner in both the city centre and residential areas. Zero emission distribution must limit the number of transport movements in the city.

Approximately 30 Dutch cities have now set themselves the target of introducing zero-emission zones by 2025. At present, less than 1% of urban logistics is emission-free, so there is certainly still honour to be gained here. For logistics companies, this means that if they want to have even longer access to an emission-free area in a city in 2025, they will have to switch to emission-free means of transport.

Sustainability through chain optimisation

In addition, chain optimisation can also contribute to making logistics processes more sustainable. A higher load factor can be achieved by combining, consolidating and planning consignments better and smarter. By bundling goods flows, this can be done more efficiently, cleaner and also remains affordable. Fewer (empty) kilometres mean fewer CO2 emissions. It will also reduce noise pollution for residents of the city. 

Only with good cooperation with the government and within the logistics sector you can  ultimately achieve zero emission city logistics. An example of this is 'intelligent access': diesel vehicles drive to the edge of a busy urban area; from there the delivery continues by electric transport to the final destination in the city centre.

City logistics will have to be carried out as much as possible by specialised companies (professional logistics service providers). At the moment, this is mostly done by own transport, which means that trucks are not fully loaded.

Urban distribution solutions

Recurrent elements that emerge from possible solutions in urban distribution are:

  • The use of electric or hybrid means of transport or other alternative forms of transport
  • Sharing data to, for example, optimise transport capacity and find the safest/most sustainable route to the final destination with advanced IT technology
  • Using hubs (transhipment points) on the outskirts of cities to get goods into the city using smaller sustainable vehicles (with fully utilised capacity) 
  • Sharing distribution capacity in urban distribution among themselves, including between competitors 

Collaboration and data are the keywords when looking for solutions for sustainable and safe urban distribution. This is evident, for example, in ideas for the smart use of loading and unloading points. Or through smart cooperation in the collection of waste, which is now generally done in our cities by different companies at different times of the day (within fixed window times). Other European cities, such as Barcelona and Vienna, are already experimenting with this.

In the Netherlands, the catering industry in the city centre could also be supplied more efficiently. This is now done a number of times a day by various suppliers, often just-in-time.

Digitisation of urban logistics

But these initiatives are not enough to solve all the logistical problems in city centres. Digitisation is also extremely important here. For example:

  • Using IT platforms to share and digitise the logistics data with each other
  • Optimum safe traffic flows through 'talking traffic': data from traffic management systems are shared with trucks of professional logistics service providers. This makes it possible to communicate with traffic lights, which ensures optimal traffic flow and higher traffic safety
  • In London, lorries with a blind spot no longer enter the city. They are required to have a 'direct vision' on their vehicle, which improves the road safety of cyclists and pedestrians in the city
  • Turn by turn last mile guidance from Simacan
  • Simacan Safety Warnings
Simacan's role in sustainable urban distribution

For its clients, for whom thousands of vehicles are on the road every day, Simacan already opens up accurate arrival times for hundreds of thousands of deliveries every minute. The Simacan Control Tower clearly registers and presents the transport performance from departure to arrival. This enables shippers and hauliers to continuously and fact-based look for improvement and optimisation within the mutual cooperation.

In addition, Simacan has also developed the 'turn by turn last mile guidance', which is of great added value for efficiency, sustainability, traffic safety and the reduction of nuisance in the city. Truck drivers often find themselves in unforeseen situations and potentially dangerous situations. By means of the 'last mile guidance' they receive safety warnings during the last few kilometres and, if necessary, an adapted route description to their destination. This avoids busy and dangerous traffic situations, which saves time, but also prevents personal and material damage.



Are you also working on making your logistics processes more sustainable and is the safety and efficiency of your drivers paramount? Would you like to know how your drivers can drive more safely in busy urban areas with our 'last mile guidance'?

Please contact us for a demo of the Simacan Control Tower and turn by turn last mile guidance.

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