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How Covid19 has changed the last mile ecosystem

A report from the World Economic Forum in April 2021 revealed that the growing demand for eCommerce deliveries will result in 36% more delivery vehicles in inner cities by 2030. The recent Pandemic has caused an increase in last-mile deliveries that will persist well after the pandemic is over.

[World Economic Forum Insight Report - Pandemic, Parcels and Public Vaccination Envisioning the Next Normal for the Last-Mile Ecosystem]

This increasing demand for eCommerce deliveries has the potential to lead to a rise in both emissions and traffic congestion. Some cities in the UK are fighting back with the introduction of Clean Air Zones (CAZ) that charge commercial vehicles for entering the zone (Read more on CAZ).

How can companies reduce emissions and congestion?

The World Economic Forum report suggests that there are technologies already available on the market for companies to adopt that will reduce congestion and emissions. The first of these is the emergence of electric vehicles over the last few years, which has enabled companies to switch from fossil fuel burning vehicles to new, emission free, electric vans and small delivery lorries. Some companies have adopted the ability to deliver parcels to specific locations for customers to collect, such as parcel lockers. But one technology that has been around for many years and is readily available to all delivery companies is software for the improved scheduling and route optimisation of deliveries such as the Descartes Solution for last mile delivery.

Other new technologies on the horizon include ground or air droids and autonomous vehicles.

The WEF report goes on to discuss other factors that eCommerce and delivery companies should consider;

  1. With more people buying online more money is flowing into developing the technology to cope.
  2. Consumers who buy online are increasingly considering the environmental and health impact alongside their purchases and are looking for sustainable products and methods of delivery.
  3. Decarbonisation is accelerating - Governments are imposing deadlines for the last purchase of fossil burning vehicles, even the general public see the benefits of electric and are buying more EV’s for private use, with this sector of vehicles being the only one currently increasing in the UK.
  4. Cities faced with Budget challenges and growing transport needs are steering last mile transitions.
    • The fear of public transport during the pandemic has pushed individuals to seek alternative methods of travel such as their own car, bicycle or powered two-wheeler.
    • Cities are introducing Clean Air Zones and low emission free zones with charging
  5. Proven technologies are fueling the last-mile revolution
    • Electric vehicle prices are dropping as production scales up to meet demand, parcel lockers are being adopted and companies of all sizes can share data to improve load pooling, while route optimisation software solutions are the easiest ways for a company to increase capacity and reduce their carbon footprint.
  6. New business models are emerging to meet an increased demand for sustainable delivery vehicles.
    • Companies are looking to powered two wheeled vehicles such as scooters, be they traditional fuel powered or electric and bicycles more and more. These solutions still require route optimisation software in order to make them efficient and allow for alternative routes to be utilised, Descartes helped the Netherlands postal company with this very exercise – read the case study here.

In conclusion the World Economic Forum report states, 

“The last-mile presents complex, interwoven challenges and opportunities for every stakeholder. While there is no silver bullet or breakthrough intervention, we encourage last-mile stakeholders to work with both urgency and a collaborative mindset to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of city dwellers around the world and support the businesses that serve them.”

Discover more about Route Optimisation Solutions for Last Mile Deliveries