How can these challenges be addressed?
Jason Smallwood: Since the issue has many moving parts, it is important to start with a good set of urban freight data, recognized by all stakeholders, that establishes a baseline of current activity. From there, it is possible to understand the related challenges. This primary need became clear as we delved deeper into this issue at WSP.
Who at WSP examined this issue?
Jason Smallwood: Freight specialists alongside other WSP colleagues from multiple disciplines who support clients from the various stakeholder groups and who shape supply chain activities.
In addition to the need for the right data, we also see the need for all stakeholders to have a common appreciation and understanding of the influential factors and how they interplay in the freight process. These stakeholder groups need to collaborate on developing measures and enablers that influence the nature of freight movements. The groups include those who can influence the way freight activity is generated, those who service that need and those who regulate and develop the urban centre.
What are some of the opportunities that exist today for consideration by stakeholders?
Jason Smallwood: Certainly, there is opportunity to reduce the demand for freight, shift freight to lower-carbon modes and vehicle types and optimize vehicle loading and unloading activities. Opportunities should be explored through collaboration in each community context to develop an area-wide plan.
Can you elaborate on reducing the demand for freight—how that would impact day-to-day operations and how that would happen?
Jason Smallwood: Reducing the demand for freight is a significant challenge and is ultimately driven by the buying behaviours of consumers and businesses who are demanding faster and more frequent deliveries from suppliers, which puts pressure on freight operators. Whilst the majority of freight operators run highly efficient operations with well-utilized vehicles, their opportunity to optimize would be enhanced if demand was more consolidated and with longer lead-times. Given the nature of demand and operating challenges in ultra urban centres, many freight operators are operating a larger number of smaller van fleets.
We therefore need to consider how we can encourage and enable a change in behaviour for those who drive freight demand and also help operators to meet public realm objectives, as well as their own, to reduce the impact of operations.
The former can be driven through initiatives that influence the behaviours and actions of residential and commercial tenants, such as green leases that, for example, limit the number of delivery vehicles per day or stipulate a single waste-collection operator. In addition, online resources play a role as they can educate on the impact of existing and changing behaviours and help provide access to current initiatives such as collaborative procurement or consolidation platforms.
To meet the latter objective, it is important to enable operators to remode deliveries to micromobility, e-cargo bikes, for example, from cars, vans and trucks for last-mile movement. Remoding makes sense where there are dense city centres, with micromobility presenting a positive alternative—to reduce congestion and lower emissions and to facilitate quicker delivery times, often achieving a similar level of productivity as achieved in an operator shift.