Global Business News

Are more delivery drivers causing congestion on UK roads?

8 min read

Ecommerce continues to grow, there are far more deliveries now than five years ago and more delivery drivers on the road causes congestion and increased fuel consumption. Better optimisation of last-mile deliveries will help to reduce costs and meet sustainability goals.

Here we will look at the carbon impact of last-mile deliveries and how to improve them.

  • Incorporate last mile delivery software solutions.
  • Use local fulfilment centres.
  • Utilise more sustainable and greener vehicles.
  • Encourage customers to select environmentally friendly delivery windows or consolidate deliveries.

Despite falling from its peak, during the Covid-19 pandemic, in January 2021 (37.8%) the UK’s baseline trend for eCommerce sales as a percentage of retail sales shows a continuous and steady year on year increase (Government ONS Statistics). Rising costs and convenience cause more and more people to rely on home deliveries from retailers for their everyday needs. As a result, there has been a surge in the number of home deliveries being made, leading to an increased number of delivery vehicles on roads, all adding to congestion. This in turn affects the efficiency of delivery operations, causing delays, missed delivery windows, and reduced overall productivity with rising costs for each delivery.

Beyond the implications for delivery operations, the rise in congestion has a broader environmental impact with carbon emissions. Transportation is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and increased congestion caused by home deliveries is exacerbating the issue. When vehicles are stuck in traffic, they spend more time idling, leading to higher fuel consumption and increased emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants, contributing to air pollution and posing a risk to both people’s health and the environment. The stop-go nature of traffic congestion is inefficient for fuel usage and increases the carbon footprint of the final-mile logistics operation.

Congestion also increases the time it takes for vehicles to reach their destinations, resulting in delayed and failed deliveries with goods being returned for a second attempt at a delivery.

To address these challenges and align with sustainability goals, it is vital to focus on optimising the last mile of the delivery process. However, the carbon impact associated with the last mile and home deliveries can be reduced by implementing new strategies.

Some approaches to consider:

  1. Improve the efficiency of delivery operations through the implementation of optimised route planning. Utilising real-time traffic updates and intelligent scheduling will help minimise the time spent in traffic by delivery vehicles and help to reduce congestion. Taking advantage of advanced technologies and data analytics, delivery companies can identify the most efficient routes, avoid high-traffic areas, and optimise the allocation of their resources (drivers and vehicles) , in turn leading to reduced carbon emissions for their fleet of delivery vehicles.
  2. Incorporating last mile delivery scheduling software solutions that utilise artificial intelligence, clever algorithms and data analytics in order to streamline delivery routes, allocate resources efficiently, and reduce unnecessary detours, results in overall operational efficiency being improved and generating several environmental benefits. If time spent idling in traffic queues or searching for addresses and routes is reduced, then it results in lower fuel consumption, reduced emissions and decreases overall congestion on the roads.
  3. By considering factors such as distance, traffic patterns, and delivery priorities, route optimisation and delivery scheduling solutions identify the most efficient routes for each delivery driver, reducing unnecessary detours and helping to ensure that drivers reach their delivery destinations at the allocated times.
  4. Route optimisation software can also ensure an efficient allocation of resources. By analysing the delivery demand, available resources, and real-time information, the software will assign the right vehicles and drivers to specific routes and deliveries at the time an order is taken. This reduces the number of empty or partially filled vehicles on the road. Efficient resource allocation leads to a more streamlined delivery process, lower fuel consumption, and reduced emissions.
  • Use local fulfilment centres: Establishing local fulfilment centres closer to customer clusters has a number of benefits:
    • Strategically locating fulfilment centres near customer clusters means that the distance travelled during last mile deliveries can be reduced. By shortening the delivery routes, companies will minimise fuel consumption and carbon emissions. This strategy also enables faster delivery times and enhances the customer experience. With shorter distances more deliveries can be completed on each delivery run, making for a higher density delivery route and reducing the fuel used per delivery.
    • Local fulfilment centres can more readily enable the use of greener modes of transport, such as battery electric and pedal power, improving air quality and aiding the reduction of congestion, (explained below in point 3).
    • Shorter delivery routes from a stocked warehouse also results in faster deliveries, beneficial for some customers and certain products, and leading to, more satisfied customers. Coupled with an effective customer notification solution this can also significantly increase the chances of a first-time delivery and avoid costly, inefficient and environmentally damaging second deliveries.
  • Utilisation of more sustainable and greener vehicles: Transitioning the delivery fleet to sustainable and greener vehicles for a company’s last mile deliveries is an essential way of reducing the carbon footprint. Electric vehicles (EVs) or hybrid vehicles offer lower emissions compared to traditional internal combustion engines. Integrating EVs into the delivery fleet can significantly contribute to environmental sustainability while companies can also explore alternative modes of transportation, such as bicycles or electric scooters, for short-distance deliveries in urban areas, this is made easier if local distribution centres are adopted. Alternative fuels and power sources, such as hydrogen power cells for vehicles that can not be replaced with electric are also being explored to reduce the carbon emissions of the delivery vehicles.

Reasons to change to greener vehicles:

  • Lower Emissions: Electric vehicles produce zero tailpipe emissions, meaning they do not release any exhaust gases directly into the atmosphere while operating. While hybrid and alternatively powered vehicles will produce lower emissions than a conventional vehicle.
    • Energy Efficiency: EVs are more energy-efficient compared to internal combustion engine vehicles. They convert over 85% of the electrical energy stored in their batteries into mechanical energy or forward motion, compared to less than 40% for a conventional diesel or petrol powered engine. This translates into an overall lower energy consumption and reduced overall greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Renewable Energy Synergy: if a company chooses their electricity supply carefully then the charging of their EVs can be carried out using electricity from renewable energy generation, such as solar or wind power, meaning the overall environmental impact can be further reduced.
    • Noise Reduction: Electric vehicles operate with around 4 – 5db less noise compared to traditional vehicles with internal combustion engines. This is particularly relevant for last mile deliveries in urban areas, where noise pollution will have a significant impact on the quality of life for residents. Utilising other modes of transportation such as electric or human powered bicycles or scooters and reduce the noise levels even further.
    • Incentives and Regulations: Many councils offer incentives, subsidies, or benefits to encourage the adoption of electric or hybrid vehicles. These incentives can make the transition to sustainable vehicles more financially viable for businesses. While some cities have implemented clean air or ultra-low emission zones that can mean daily taxes for vehicles using fossil fuels. Changing your delivery fleet in order to meet these regulations and proactively embracing greener vehicles will reduce delivery costs associated with these restricted zones and have the added benefit of positioning the company as responsible and environmentally conscious.
    • Alternative Modes of Transportation: For short distance deliveries in dense urban areas, bicycles, either electric or human powered, offer further advantages for deliveries, besides zero emissions, they offer manoeuvrability in traffic, reduced parking space requirements, and improved accessibility to narrow or congested streets as well alternative routes specifically made for cycles.

By utilising more sustainable and greener vehicles, the environmental impact of last mile deliveries can be reduced significantly, while highlighting a commitment to environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

  • Encourage customers to select environmentally friendly delivery windows or to consolidate their deliveries: Customer behaviour and choices can also play a large part in the optimisation of last mile deliveries. Encouraging customers to select a “green” delivery slot where another nearby delivery has already been placed, greatly reduces the miles between deliveries. Consolidating orders and choosing a specific day for delivery will reduce the number of individual trips made by delivery drivers for each product, resulting in all their products being delivered together in one journey. Both solutions minimise fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Customers can be encouraged to select the ideal, more environmentally friendly green delivery slot or to consolidate their orders by offering incentives, such as discounted or free delivery.

Benefits of green delivery slots or consolidated deliveries:

  • Reduced Carbon Emissions: A consolidated delivery means that multiple items are combined into a single shipment, but this could also be achieved by grouping together many deliveries that are destined for a small neighbourhood and delivering them one after another, this can be achieved by offering ‘green’ delivery slots and encouraging customers to select that slot. By consolidating deliveries, retailers can reduce their carbon footprint, while also promoting their environmental credentials to the customer.
    • Cost Savings: Consolidating delivery can save retailers as well as consumers money. Combining many orders into a single shipment allows businesses to save money on fuel and packaging. These savings can either be passed on to the customer in the form of lower shipping costs or other incentives, making the shopping experience more appealing and increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty, or kept by the delivery company as a saving.
    • Enhanced Customer Convenience: Delivery consolidation and delivery slot selection offers benefits to consumers, when they consolidate their orders or choose a time slot that suits them, they will receive a single shipment, reducing the number of times they need to anticipate or track a delivery, plus they will select a day on which they know they will be at home and at a time that suits them to receive their delivery. This also speeds up the receiving process as the customer will be ready to receive, while the disruption to neighbours caused by frequent deliveries is also minimised.
    • Reduced Packaging Waste: Packaging waste will also be reduced by consolidating deliveries. The environmental impact of packaging waste is decreased when several items are sent together in a single shipment rather than delivered individually.
    • Improved Traffic Management: Consolidated deliveries reduce the number of deliveries required and in turn the number of vehicles on the road minimising congestion.

By actively encouraging customers to consolidate their deliveries and choose ‘green’ delivery slots, retailers can play a vital role in promoting sustainable and environmentally friendly delivery practices, while contributing to a more sustainable and efficient delivery ecosystem and providing a positive experience for their customers.

In Summary, growth in e-commerce has increased the number of deliveries and congestion on roads, which has resulted in higher fuel consumption. Businesses can optimise last-mile deliveries to meet sustainability objectives with advanced route optimsiation and delivery scheduling software, regional and local fulfilment facilities, sustainable vehicles, and by promoting environmentally friendly consumer delivery choices. These strategies will enhance consumer satisfaction and lower congestion, while also lowering carbon emissions and increasing efficiency.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We are social