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Blog Post

Five Big Challenges for Goods Delivery

We’ve been listening to both cities and operators about their issues – here’s where we want to start

Alexander Pazuchanics
Oct 27, 2023

It is no secret that there have been substantial changes in urban goods delivery as a result of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. But the trends were changing significantly beforehand as well. The rise of online shopping, a desire for different products, and a willingness to pay a premium for fast services are combining to fundamentally restructure goods movement in the city.

For some time, Vianova has been working on this new challenge, alongside partners in the public sector and private businesses. We have spent the last few months talking to people at all stages of the logistics process as we begin building solutions for some of the most vexing cities in the world, including Paris and Mexico City. Here’s what we heard about where we’re headed next:

Delivery areas only serve a small number of deliveries

For the last few decades, delivery areas were meant to coordinate the pick-up or drop-off of large volumes of supplies, once or twice per day. Think about the process for supplying a grocery store – a large truck unloading for anywhere from 5-20 minutes. The explosive growth of smaller, quicker (the target delivery handoff time is typically 90 seconds for one operator) deliveries is challenging the existing infrastructure.

The location of goods delivery zones is often haphazard and is based on a series of requests (which may have been made decades before the present occupants set up shop). There is little digitization of the location of these spots, meaning cities often do not know what their own inventory of loading areas is, and are therefore unable to share the inventory with businesses doing deliveries. Moreover, competing uses of right-of-way (think of temporary outdoor seating, which has exploded over the last 18 months) is coming into conflict with the existing delivery areas.

The practical reality is the majority of goods are now being delivered outside of the traditionally marked loading zones, especially in Europe. Resolving this disparity means rethinking the existing infrastructure portfolio and trying new strategies for new modes.

Issues are technological, but they’re also organisational

Unlike much of the buzz in shared mobility for moving people, goods delivery has not seen a similar dose of attention in the past few years. This fact means that many of the rules and policies governing goods delivery are still reliant on outdated approaches. For example, delegating the requests of loading zones to police departments as a permitting matter may lead to a loss of vision about the broader interplay between goods and people movement. Regulations that affect certain delivery companies more than others (for example, prohibitions against the use of scooters for delivery) may ultimately limit the effectiveness of new and innovative solutions.

Existing cycling infrastructure isn’t sufficient for large-scale e-bike delivery

European cities have made significant progress over the past few years in implementing additional cycling infrastructure to support two-wheeled travellers, a trend that has received a massive shot in the arm as a result of investments made during the pandemic. But the infrastructure is beginning to buckle under the weight of increased delivery use. Not only are cargo bikes bigger (creating challenges in densely used or narrowly constructed lanes), but they also make frequent starts and stops, creating challenges in the lane. Combine this with a lack of high quality bicycle parking infrastructure, and operators indicate a willingness to switch to e-bikes, but they’re constrained by physics and the reality that cycle paths are becoming as crowded as roadways.

Companies both compete and collaborate

Businesses in the ecosystem all benefit from working together. When they lobby together, companies are able to get the city to adjust policies or add new infrastructure. However, the companies are also fiercely independent – competing on price, reliability, and geographic reach. These two trends work in conflict with one another, and have stymied some work towards approaches to collective action (especially the development of data standards). In order for work to move forward, companies are going to need to take some of the lessons of shared micro-mobility and other models in how to appropriately and safely share the data that supports their objectives while also protecting their commercial interests

Spatial problems may require temporal solutions

Nighttime delivery is certainly not a new concept, but companies are increasingly thinking about how the technique could be applied to a broader range of customers (including consumers) and at different stages of the delivery lifecycle (for example, delivering packages to a relay point overnight, and then conducting final delivery the following day). Nighttime delivery can also open up creative uses of existing infrastructure to that sees its biggest use in the daytime – imagine utilising buses and riverbanks to handle large-scale deliveries.

We’re looking for innovative partners who want to solve the challenges of goods delivery with us! Feel free to reach out for a conversation!

About Vianova

Vianova is the trusted mobility intelligence platform for cities and mobility providers to achieve CarbonZero and VisionZero. Our data platform helps transport providers and cities, better integrate and manage shared, connected, electric and autonomous transport solutions in the urban space, enabling better use of city infrastructure, and promoting safer and more sustainable mobility. Vianova has offices in Paris, Zürich and London.

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