With the London Olympics just a year away, there are moves to get night-time deliveries back on the agenda. There is no doubt that the games will be hugely disruptive to normal life in London – a result not only of the huge influx of visitors but also of the creation of special traffic lanes to whisk Olympic officials from their Mayfair hotels to the East End.
The idea was raised at last month’s Freight Transport Association conference on managing deliveries during the games. Natalie Chapman, the FTA’s head of policy for London, said: “The benefits of night-time deliveries are proven and irresistible; why waste time and money sitting in traffic when you don’t need to?”
But, plans for night-time deliveries always raise strong objections – and understandably so. Speaking as a London resident, I know just how frustrating it is to be woken at 3am by a truck thundering down the main road.
So if this proposal is going to be taken seriously, the industry really does have to demonstrate that it will be a good neighbour.
The FTA argues that if businesses adopt best practice, and work night-time deliveries into their long-term plans, the benefits of transport cost reduction, more reliable deliveries and lower emissions will far outweigh the initial costs and effort.
It has been working with the Noise Abatement Society on the development of quiet delivery techniques that could be used to allow deliveries to take place at times currently restricted due to planning or noise abatement reasons. It is intended that these be used during the games period to allow more deliveries to take place at night.
But the Olympics and Paralympics last only a few weeks, so the case for night-time deliveries needs to go beyond those immediate needs. Of course, there are other reasons to allow night working. Having vehicles standing in rush hour traffic jams is not just costly, it’s a pollution problem.
Done correctly, with suitable vehicles and properly trained drivers, night-time deliveries could be a real benefit. But, to win the argument and then perform badly, disrupting the lives of a large number of people, would shred the reputation of the industry and set back relations with local communities for years. It is vital to get it right.