How can smart initiatives stimulate more efficient parcel deliveries?

City logistics makes an important contribution to the quality of life that people experience in cities. The liveability of cities is under pressure, partly caused by growing number of ‘last mile’ E-commerce deliveries. Various (f)actors involved in the last mile have led to smart initiatives in the sector.

Based on the literature, Casper Hondema (MSc student at Open Universiteit Nederland) wrote his thesis about: How can ‘smart initiatives’ contribute to a more sustainable approach to ‘the last mile delivery’ in urban areas.


Casper used a survey to investigate consumer’s behaviour and vision regarding E-commerce deliveries. This survey serves as a pilot study and is aimed at consumers who make online purchases. A total of 114 respondents completed the survey, and 9 interviews with representative of important stakeholders were held, using tools to ensure validity.

Focusing on the current situation of last mile delivery in the Netherlands, in terms of emissions, the parcel sector does contribute just four percent of total emissions in the city logistics sector. Technical innovations in the automotive industry have contributed to more sustainable deliveries. Large delivery companies, such as PostNL and DHL, now often deliver using zero-emission vehicles in city centres.

Smart initiatives

‘Smart initiatives’ are being put into practice in the form of low- or even zero-emission vehicles. The most important smart initiatives are more difficult to observe, however, because they often concern data about further optimising the process of the last mile delivery.

The most important development is address intelligence, which is designed to reduce the number of failed deliveries due to the consumer not being at home. Using the available data, often made available by municipalities, parcel delivery companies can better plan and deliver within a specific time slot, which increases the likelihood of a consumer being at home.

Sustainability, however, consists of more than just CO2 emissions. Corporate social responsibility is also an important pillar when it comes to sustainability. This pillar not only measures the emission but also the consequences for liveability and economic benefits for stakeholders.

A growing number of web shops deliver their products themselves resulting in an increase of delivery competing for urban space. Simultaneously, consumers are often unaware of the impact of their chosen delivery method. The lack of cooperation between stakeholders, such as web shops and parcel delivery companies leads to an unnecessary number of vans entering neighbourhoods. These extra vehicles cause disturbances in neighbourhoods such as congestion and noise disturbance.

However, many consumers indicate that they are willing to wait an extra day if the delivery impact of their online purchased products can be reduced.

Based on this research, important solutions for city logistics can be found in using urban consolidation centres on the edges of cities. There, goods flows are bundled and then delivered using a zero/low-emission vehicle. Collaboration is needed for this to ensure coordination and thus reduce the number of vehicles. Local government should stimulate and enforce cooperation among stakeholders to move from zero-emissions to zero-impact deliveries.

Read the thesis here.

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