Symposium hears how climate concerns will inevitably change logistics

June 28 2019

The transport Industry is being warned that if it thinks it’s been subject to scrutiny before, it will fall firmly under the climate change spotlight in the next ten years.

The closing symposium of the Freight Traffic Control 2050 project, which looked at overcoming the last mile challenge in urban areas, has heard that the net zero target by 2050 must be met, and that transport has not been anywhere near as effective as other sectors in delivering carbon reductions.

The symposium, which took place at the University of Liverpool’s Central London building, was supported by ITS (UK) and moderated by the Society’s Freight Forum Chair, Geoff Clarke of AECOM.  It heard how a variety of technology solutions are already making a difference in reducing the number of vehicles and kilometres used in deliveries and the resulting emissions.  One highlighted innovation is a shared solution in the Scottish Highlands and Islands where one delivery company carries out deliveries for a range of different courier companies, with one driver able to integrate with each company’s parcel tracking software packages in real time, leading to a huge reduction in the number of vehicles needed and thus major cost savings.  The Symposium heard how this same software is now being used effectively in very different conditions in London.

The issue of free delivery cropped up regularly during the day, with the logistics firms suggesting that this can have a significant effect on the demand for short-notice parcel delivery and therefore a high number of vehicles to carry them out.  Similarly the industry noted the potential effect of clean air zones on the viability of their current operations.

The need for better location information and route planning was identified, suggesting technology solutions are vital, while, after one plea for a kerbside booking system to reduce driving around waiting for availability, the symposium heard how an ITS (UK) member, Grid Smarter Cities, has already developed such a solution.

Autonomous vehicles were seen as part of the solution but not a silver bullet.  As one speaker said, you will still need a human to find the exact address and carry goods to the door, although there was a place for driverless vehicles in getting the goods into the centre of a city.

Digital twins were seen as a way to support the understanding of logistics and delivery solutions and to test new approaches in a holistic way while technology to support parcel tracking was also welcomed.

“It is clear that we will not be able to deliver the huge changes the freight industry needs to undertake without the use of technology,” said Geoff Clarke of AECOM.  “In the past it has been difficult for logistics suppliers to co-operate without risking their market share but we saw today examples of how organisations can use technology to do so without losing their competitive advantage.  And given the environmental issues we face, this successful symposium has helped us see that such solutions are vital for transport to hit the tough targets it faces over the next 30 years.”

“Once again we see that technology will play a major role in improving our transport,” added Jennie Martin, ITS (UK)’s Secretary General.  “By supporting the symposium not only did we learn about issues and solutions we can share with our members, but we were able to introduce the freight audience at the event to innovation by our members in the kerbside management and transport modelling fields, helping to fulfil one of our remits – to make people more aware of how ITS helps deliver solutions quicker, cheaper and more efficiently than other traditional methods.”

The ITS (UK) Freight Forum will next meet on 26 September at AECOM’s offices in London to discuss integrating urban planning to consider passengers and logistics.  Members of the Local Authority/Urban and Smart Environment Forums are also encouraged to event.  The meeting is sponsored by PTV Group.

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