Delivering reductions to inner city congestion and air pollution

New thinking facilitated by technological innovations can reduce transportation costs, optimise delivery routes and tackle some of the issues around inner-city congestion and air pollution, says Claudine Mosseri.

A major factor in traffic congestion and pollution is delivery vehicles on the roads during peak times.

The issue of air pollution in the UK is high on the political and environmental agenda. The High Court ruling back in February stating that the levels in many UK cities are ‘unlawful’ has piled on the pressure to do more to tackle this issue and along with rising inner-city congestion, local councils are looking at new initiatives to cut traffic. 

The estimated cost of congestion in the UK is predicted to rise 63% by 2030, to a cost of £21bn. London is top of the congested heap, with the weight of traffic also set to increase by 60% by 2031, according to Transport for London (TfL). 

A major factor is delivery vehicles on the roads during peak times. TfL says that a quarter of London’s traffic during the peak hours of 7-11am is freight. The number of workplace deliveries being ordered by people who cannot accommodate home delivery are rising. When it comes to next day and same day deliveries, expectations are high. And van space is underutilised, with many shipping fresh air and making multiple stops. In response, TfL advocates more effective delivery consolidation, ensuring better use of space, in fewer vehicles. 

Current discussions include changing delivery times to alleviate weight of traffic and avoid peak congestion hours. After all, busy roads become a vicious cycle of more delivery vehicles being stuck in traffic, further reducing their efficiency. And it isn’t only consumers demanding quick and convenient delivery options. Businesses and cities are increasingly dependent on technology due to the integration of smart ‘Internet of Things’ devices and other automations. 

This results in a need for quick provision of replacement parts and engineers to provide fast and efficient fixes. Without exploring different solutions for getting these parts from A to B, more vehicles could be on the road, their sole purpose: minimising the impact of device downtime. 

Until recently, delivering during off-peak times was not possible - where is open at two in the morning to take delivery? Now, there are networks of 24/7 click and collect locations in newsagents, stores and locker banks all over urban areas. Similar solutions for part delivery have been used across the country for years to increase efficiencies in the field service supply chain. These accessible, fixed point delivery locations not only reduce the number of stops vehicles make, but also reduce van traffic on city centre roads.  This type of point-to-point planning using conveniently located lockers ensure deliveries are easy to access with minimal environmental impact and maximum speed. 

Delivery to these locations overnight reduces failed deliveries, allows efficient use of vehicle capacity and doesn’t increase existing congestion. For businesses with high frequency deliveries, or where stock needed is time sensitive or high value, using or hosting their own secure drop-off location could facilitate timely delivery of essential items. With predictive analytics on stock levels and ‘smart’ devices communicating their status back to businesses, it is possible for holding stock and collection points to house critical parts in advance of breakdowns, so they are available before they are needed.

Congested cities seem a problem that will only get worse. At ByBox we believe no problem is insurmountable. New thinking facilitated by technological innovations which can reduce transportation costs and optimise delivery routes can help to tackle some of the issues around inner-city congestion and air pollution. 

By approaching the issues differently when it comes to vehicle use, drop-off and delivery schedules, we can reduce congestion and environmental impact, while meeting the needs of demanding and ‘always-on’ customers.

Claudine Mosseri is general manager, field support, at technology solutions provider, ByBox.

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