Ecologistics: 8 principles for low-emission city logistics

Global freight demand is estimated to triple between 2015 and 2050. The ability to move goods efficiently has become the lifeblood of economic development, particularly in cities that generate over 80 percent of global GDP and an estimated 75 percent of global emissions.

As cities continue to grow, increasing urban freight movements present unique urban challenges including congestion, air pollution, traffic accidents, and a host of other negative impacts of city logistics. To mitigate the adverse impacts and meet the Paris climate goals, it is imperative for cities to apply sustainable principles for moving goods.

EcoLogistics promotes clean, sustainable, efficient, and safe urban freight through collaborative efforts in stakeholder engagement, technologies, policies, and land use planning and inspires local governments to transform their city logistics system.

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Here are the eight EcoLogistics principles local governments can follow to help lead the transition to sustainable urban freight:

1. Shift to alternative delivery options

Last-mile deliveries account for one-quarter of logistics GHG emissions and are often inefficient. These deliveries can be shifted to sustainable delivery options using non-motorized vehicles, and the use of electric vans and light electric vehicles should be promoted to improve the efficiency and performance of the urban freight system. Low-emission alternatives to road transport, such as waterways and urban rail can also reduce emissions.

2. Commit to safer urban delivery vehicles for safer streets

Delivery vehicles are disproportionately responsible for traffic injuries and fatalities. A comprehensive program for safer vehicles, speeds, streets, and behavior can reduce the likelihood of road crashes. Governments can enforce a safe system for vehicles and fleet operations, raise driving standards and ensure compliance, provide targeted training, and reduce speed limits to protect vulnerable road users where infrastructure must be shared.

3. Integrate land use planning for city logistics

Land use is generally planned and implemented at the local level, using the comprehensive plan, zoning code, and permitting system. City policymakers and urban planners should introduce policies and rules for the movement of goods into urban planning. Land use planning policies should take into account the management of curb space for freight vehicles, loading/unloading bays, and shared use for deliveries.

4. Support consolidation strategies 

Consolidation allows for improved load utilization and can reduce delivery vehicle numbers and kilometers. Small urban consolidation centers, in combination with electric vehicles and cargo bikes, can enhance urban delivery cost- and energy-efficiency. Governments can identify suitable funding models and provide adequate infrastructure for appropriate consolidation and distribution activities.

5. Optimize the efficiency of delivery operations

With improving data collection technologies, urban freight service providers can use services such as route optimization, telematics for vehicles, driver monitoring, and training to improve delivery operations. Governments can use collected data to understand the freight movement in their cities and make informed decisions.

6. Promote multi-stakeholder decision making structures

Sustainable urban freight is difficult to achieve without the active engagement and support of stakeholders in both public and private sectors. Urban freight roundtables and forums should be established for efficient and targeted discussions and negotiations.

7. Create frameworks for climate-friendly business models

New business models and technological innovations may change the way the urban freight industry operates. Policymakers should introduce regulatory and pricing incentives and procurement policies to support the use of low emission vehicles and create frameworks that enable freight operators to move toward climate-friendly business models.

8. Embrace the future of sustainable logistics

Advances in technology make just-in-time deliveries for many commercial establishments and consumers possible. Local governments should use communications channels and campaigns to raise awareness of the impact of delivery options and encourage consumer behavior change. Policy-makers can also set up training programs for logistics jobs to raise the profile of the freight sector.

Source: EcoLogistics

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