Research: the potential for coordinated city logistics planning at the local level

It is in the common interest of local authorities and businesses to optimize city logistics, yet far too often they operate in isolation, without the necessary cooperation and agreement. Through bringing together the local actors as part of a collaborative planning process, meaningful plans for action can be developed. In turn, that would help to establish a generic decision-making framework, anchored in the cities’ planning systems, which would facilitate meaningful interactions between stakeholders. To be effective, the vision needs to be integrated with other urban policies, clearly articulated, and shared by all stakeholders, in addition, to be tailored to the individual cities’ local context.

Research in Norway

In Norway, local authorities are primarily responsible for facilitating relevant trends by incorporating related issues into their planning processes. In contrast to personal travel, freight transport and logistics have been neglected by local authorities in urban planning. Thus, in order to address freight transport in decision-making processes, local authorities need to have an increased understanding of urban freight and to pay more attention to freight transport and city logistics.

The aim of a new research paper by SINTEF is to understand the potential for coordinated logistics planning at the local level. Interviews were held with representatives of public authorities and private stakeholders within the logistics supply chain in three Norwegian cities. It is necessary for local authorities to understand stakeholders’ operations, perspectives, and attitudes in order to ensure that their involvement in urban planning will be constructive.

UFT and urban planning

In urban and regional planning, it is the local levels ideas and processes that may be most meaningfully expressed and operationalized due to a potential appeal to unaccustomed decision-makers. Because matters of significance are neither too trivial to be of interest, nor too remote to be outside their orbit of influence. Nevertheless, due to the integration of both land use and transportation planning and the link between city logistics and the supply chain through terminals, it is important to incorporate urban freight transport and connect the planning process to a regional level. Regional transport strategies and plans may contribute to develop a hierarchy of approaches to reduce the impacts of freight.

Lack of strategies for urban freight

The findings show that there are no overall strategies for city logistics in the studied cities, although public authorities are concerned with issues related to urbanization and sustainability that indirectly affect freight deliveries. Furthermore, there is poor capacity in planning and policymaking regarding freight. Local authorities comprise a number of fragmented departments and appear to lack resources dedicated to urban freight. However, such authorities realize the need for their contribution to the process of establishing urban logistics plans.

There is a lack of predictability in the supply chain and suboptimal solutions are found daily among the private stakeholders. The private stakeholders are to a large degree uncoordinated and their operations are characterized by ad hoc solutions. Therefore, the stakeholders themselves call for involvement in the public planning process. All these differences result in the need for general, centralized guidelines that can be adapted for local condition. Not only fixed meetings but also arenas with possibilities to invite new businesses as start-ups and new players.

Increasing coordination and competence

By increasing coordination and competence among the public authorities at various levels and by developing national guidelines, it is likely that predictability in day-to-day operations would be improved for all actors through increased transparency concerning how urban freight deliveries are handled within city administrations. Increased knowledge is required to understand the complexity of urban freight, how laws and regulations affect present systems, and to understand some of the trade-offs and conflicts between users of shared urban spaces.

Furthermore, an understanding of the planning hierarchy is needed to involve the private stakeholders at appropriate early stages in the planning process and to improve coordination between public and private stakeholders. Local authorities currently focus their attention and resources on personal travel, leaving few dedicated resources for freight. The important role played by logistics in the city economy can illustrate the large potential for working with logistics stakeholders to improve urban freight efficiency, to reduce costs, and to eliminate other negative impacts.


Bjørgen, A., Seter, H., Kristensen, T., & Pitera, K. (2019). The potential for coordinated logistics planning at the local level: A Norwegian in-depth study of public and private stakeholders. Journal of Transport Geography, 76, 34-41.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *