Urban hits and myths

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Change in the retail landscape is moving the goalposts for urban deliveries. Balancing the demands of high street and home deliveries is creating new challenges – and then there is the drive to be greener and cleaner. Malory Davies reports.

The high street is under pressure, with shoppers being driven away by a debilitating cocktail of store closures, congestion, parking problems and the lure of online shopping. And this in turn is changing the landscape for urban deliveries.

It’s so bad that nine out of ten shoppers in a recent survey said the high street would die unless it changed. The study, by Manhattan Associates, found 77 per cent of shoppers viewed goods in store before buying them online – threatening to turn stores into mere showrooms.

There have been attempts to solve some of the problems of servicing city centre stores with “city logistics” projects – Bristol’s Broadmead project is a typical example. A Department for Transport study in 2010 suggested that such schemes could cut final mile delivery costs, increase the delivery window and maximise retail space. While there are consolidation schemes in operation they tend to service shopping malls or airport retail facilities.

But the dramatic growth of internet shopping is changing the nature of the debate. It’s no longer simply about more efficient and cost effective ways to deliver to the high street – it’s about addressing the decline of the high street.

The Manhattan survey highlights a number of strengths – if shop assistants have visibility of inventory across the store and supply chain network they can secure, save or increase a sale. High street stores can also achieve faster delivery times than their online counterparts through services such as click-and-collect or ship-from-store. These types of service are gaining in popularity. The survey found that some 60 per cent of shoppers would be more likely to buy from a retailer offering a click-and-collect service than from one without such an offering.

“An agile, sophisticated and efficient supply chain is a crucial part of facilitating the dynamic changes that will allow the high street to leverage their most important assets once more,” says Manhattan managing director Craig Sears-Black.

The rise of e-commerce is putting more and more delivery vehicles onto the streets. Paul Doble, director and e-commerce expert at DX, points out: “The congestion facing delivery vehicles on urban streets is echoed in the capacity restrictions facing logistics firms as e-commerce grows.

“These changes are particularly noticeable in the shift from large to small scale deliveries, with an increase in smaller vehicles delivering parcels to individual customers, rather than larger trucks delivering stock directly into retail stores. One of the main challenges for logistics firms across the board, as e-commerce continues to grow, is the importance of carefully managing their bandwidth to provide the maximum capacity to retailers, without over-promising and jeopardising customer relationships.”

The growth in online shopping has had two major effects on urban deliveries,” says Gary Monk, chief executive officer of Arrow XL.

“Firstly, with more customers ordering online, there is less of a need for retailers to hold stock in store. Instead, through storing stock centrally and delivering direct to homes, national logistics partners, such as Arrow XL, are able to ensure a consistent delivery experience.”

Andrew Dalziel, vice president of product management at Kewill, points out that with changing legislation and increasing consumer demands for convenience of service, urban delivery companies have no other option but to evolve their strategy to fit around these requirements.


“Of course the requirements differ depending on the industry, ie food is an essential part of living and therefore is a regular and planned purchase, with customers typically requiring delivery around the same day and time each week, whereas fashion and luxury goods are more of an impulse buy, resulting in an immediate demand for the item.

“Delivery companies need to take a mixture of the following into consideration when planning their strategy: Better management of transport planning – enabling carriers to streamline services; consider using local delivery drop off points for multiple customers as opposed to making ten individual deliveries; smaller, newer, fuel effective vehicles are a necessity; evaluate supply chain network design and scope for greater use of consolidation centres for urban deliveries.

Changing delivery demands are also having an impact on the types of vehicle chosen for urban deliveries.

Martin Hay, Scania’s UK truck sales director, says: “One development we have noted is the increased level of interest being shown by operators in gas-powered vehicles. In addition to quiet and clean operations, gas currently offers a considerable financial advantage and we believe the government has committed to maintaining the duty differential between gas and diesel for three years.

“Our first UK gas-powered vehicles were recently introduced into service by Reading Buses and these are proving to be extremely successful in operation. Later this year we will have a gas truck demonstrator available and many operators have already indicated they will be keen to try this for themselves. Moreover, the LNG/CNG (Liquefied Natural Gas/Compressed Natural Gas) gas filling station recently installed at the Crick DIRFT serves to show that infrastructure solutions – up until now the principal barrier to gas operation – are also available today,” says Hay.
Operators are also having to plan for the Euro 6 environmental standard coming in.

“This standard will ultimately boost business for vehicle manufacturers, but is potentially a major cost to the carriers and may delay other improvement initiatives if companies don’t put a strategy in place ahead of the deadline,” says Dalziel. “The smart companies will find a way to do both and create a competitive advantage.”

Hay says: “The indications here are that many operators are bringing their purchasing forward to delay their investment in Euro 6 technology. That said, the recent launch of our second generation Euro 6 engines, which together with other technological advances promise fuel-saving benefits of up to eight per cent, is also attracting a great deal of attention from forward-looking operators.”

City deliveries

Volvo has just introduced its new range of FL and FE trucks which have been designed for city deliveries and suburban transport respectively, and providing a suitable driving environment has been a priority in the design.

“Drivers often climb into and out of their trucks many times on each shift. That’s why we’ve focused on creating a comfortable, convenient driver’s environment with good visibility in every direction,” says Volvo president Claes Nilsson.

The new engines use EGR and SCR and particulate filters to meet the Euro 6 standard, but Volvo says their fuel consumption is on a par with its Euro 5 engines. The trucks can be specified with automatic transmissions and Volvo has recognised the unique characteristics of urban deliveries with a distribution-specific option.

The range also includes a new 12 tonne version of the FL which has smaller wheels that lower the cab by two inches. This gives better all round visibility as well as making it easier to get in and out of the cab.

Electric trucks- Together in electric dreams

Rosy Hill gets a sneak preview of DHL’s ground-breaking 14 tonne electric hybrid.

DHL Supply Chain has developed a new 14 tonner series hybrid truck, as part of its GoGreen Programme, which has a target of improving its parent company Deutsche Post DHL’s overall CO2 emissions by 30 per cent by 2020.

The entirely electrically driven hybrid has its own on-board power generator.

The new truck, which the company reckons is the first of its design in the UK, is expected to save up to 25 per cent on fuel and carbon.

Currently being trialled as part of NHS Supply Chain’s fleet, at its facility in Maidstone, Kent, which is operated by DHL, the innovation comes after a two-year process of getting it on the road.

Innovation manager Ian MacAulay says: “The first part of the test was to answer the questions, Will the truck work for our customers? Does it work as a commercial vehicle? Then we looked at its maximum technology potential and longevity.”

The project sees a standard 14 tonne vehicle, which looks and drives the same, with its original engine left untouched, fitted with an electric generator and motor to enable a fully electric drive.
Magtec, a supplier of hybrid and electrical drive systems, was chosen as development partner and therefore supplier of the truck’s drive system.

Being electric, the vehicle only needs forward, reverse and neutral gears and it uses a regenerative braking system.

“The driver’s experience is important and his or her acceptance is crucial. So far, we have only had positive feedback.”

Lenny Wiles, Magtec’s technical service manager, said: “Whereas the rest of the fleet is automatic, this electric truck is an instant drive, it’s not slow so there is no compromise when driving.
“Manoeuvring is easy and it provides a relaxed journey, you find you’re not causing traffic or taking your time to pull off on a roundabout, you can really blend in with other drivers.”

The prototype currently sees all data logged, analysing every detail from why and where the vehicle has slowed down to an exact map trace of the routes it has taken.

If the truck is successful, DHL Supply Chain hopes it will form a major part of its delivery operations in the future.

n Renault Trucks is testing a 16 tonne electric truck in partnership with Norbert Dentressangle and ThyssenKrupp Materials France. The electric motor uses Li-Ion batteries and the truck is fitted with a generator to recharge the batteries on the road. It also uses regenerative braking.

The Midlum truck has a capacity of six tonnes and is expected to make daily deliveries of steel bars in the area north west of Paris covering up to 140 miles a day. It is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 per cent compared to a diesel truck as well as providing a significant improvement in noise levels. The tests started last month and will run until January.

LNG- Delivery is a gas for Tesco

Tesco has committed a part of its delivery fleet to use Bio-LNG facilities run by Gasrec.

35 Mercedes dual-fuel trucks based at the Daventry distribution centre are using Gasrec’s refuelling station at DIRFT which opened in May.

Bio-LNG is Gasrec’s proprietary blend of liquefied natural gas and liquid bio-methane – which is produced from organic matter such as household food waste and sewage.
As well as reducing emissions, gas can also reduce engine noise – an additional benefit for urban delivery operations.

The retailer expects to cut CO2 emissions by 15 per cent, with a 90 per cent reduction in NOx and particulate matter emissions. It has set a target of reducing emissions per case of goods delivered by 25 per cent by 2020 (from 2011 baseline).

Tesco Distribution’s group environmental manager, Joe Carthy, said: “A gas refuelling station on our doorstep is ideal for us. We are committed to converting vehicles to dual fuel and reducing carbon emissions. Gasrec’s infrastructure and Bio-LNG fuel will allow us to do this across our network in years to come.”

Daventry is the first of seven stations which Gasrec is building to complete the UK’s first strategic refuelling infrastructure for gas-powered vehicles at multiple locations across the UK road network.

Other companies using Gasrec include NFT, Kuehne + Nagel, Brit European and Stobart already on board, along with retailers such as B&Q, and Sainsbury’s.

Politics- On your bike

If more motorists would switch to bicycles, it would free up road space for those who have no alternative such as freight, according to Christopher Snelling, head of urban logistics policy at the Freight Transport Association.

Snelling was responding to a report by MPs entitled “Get Britain Cycling”. While the FTA supported the drive to increase cycling, Snelling warned that proposals to restrict lorries from using busy routes at certain times would be economically damaging.

“These routes are busy for a reason – they are the economic lifeblood of our urban areas.To prevent lorries using them would add to the difficulty and cost of running shops, offices and other businesses in our towns and cities. Just because a route is busy does not automatically mean it is dangerous.

“It is strange to be talking about introducing restrictions when it is public regulations that currently prevent lorries making deliveries at night, forcing deliveries into the first part of the day just when the most cyclists are on the road. If these deliveries don’t happen when customers need them; businesses will close and cities will suffer.”

The FTA argues that a more thought through approach is required and supports junction redesign and improved cycling infrastructure, as well as allowing night-time deliveries.

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