Urban logistics: what solutions for a sustainable system in the city?

Freight transport in urban areas is perceived negatively, as it causes numerous problems in terms of accessibility (lack of infrastructure, traffic disruption, etc.), the environment (source of air pollution), noise and safety.

Experts believe that delivery trucks and cars are responsible for 30 to 40% of nitrogen oxide emissions and 60% of particulate emissions, which have an impact on human health and can lead to respiratory disorders, cancer and other types of illness.

To this end, governments and local authorities are imposing various constraints and proposing certain arrangements or aids to encourage new sustainable and bearable urban logistics.

Freight transport issues

Ever-increasing urban density is making space increasingly scarce, while at the same time multiplying the need for goods transport, which takes up a lot of roadspace... The concentration of consumers is accompanied by a steady growth in deliveries, which tend to stifle infrastructures and threaten city dwellers with pollution, noise and stress.

Although road transport is the most flexible and economical mode of transport for deliveries, providing fast service over short and medium distances, it is one of the main causes of the external nuisance problems associated with urban logistics.
For example, noise pollution caused by engines, delivery equipment (tail elevators), etc., is one of the main causes. The nuisance starts at sixty decibels, which is the case for almost all delivery vehicles in city centers.

Heavy-duty vehicles, on the other hand, are exaggeratedly synonymous with street degradation, pollution,accidents andtraffic jams, despite the fact that they represent the most responsible solution for optimizing road use, and that the latest generations benefit from technologies, filters, equipment and new energy sources that make their environmental and health impact the lowest per ton transported. Cities are aware that these changes in consumption and needs are the inevitable consequence of new economic and social functions.
The need for sustainable and durable solutions must prompt local authorities to think about new logistics schemes to ensure that the city of tomorrow is.... liveable.

Designing new solutions for urban logistics

The new quantitative constraints of urban goods transport mean that authorities are faced withurban planning issues where the quality of life of city dwellers must take priority.

In most countries, freight transport issues are dealt with at local or regional level, which can in some cases make it difficult to implement coherent measures. Regulations vary from one municipality to another, often leading to short-term solutions with no significant impact. It would therefore be desirable to harmonize regulations and give them a national dimension.

Various approaches have already been proposed to combat urban congestion, such as delivery using small, less-polluting vehicles, delivery during off-peak hours, and the creation of public transport networks to group deliveries and reduce flows. It should be noted that in France, private and public players are trying to cooperate by setting up a regulated environment and creating new concepts.

The success of the measures studied stems from a series of steps that all need to be considered together: raising awareness of the vital importance of urban goods transport, setting up a data evaluation system and making it more available, facilitating innovative methods such as groupage, which has already been successful in some conurbations, harmonizing regulations, creating appropriate logistics facilities for loading and unloading goods and, last but not least, giving preference to less polluting and quieter vehicles. This non-exhaustive list of avenues for improvement requires the involvement of all private and public players involved in the urban logistics issue, otherwise we'll all go astray....