Urban freight makes up an increasing percentage of transport operations and emissions, but there is no common methodology to capture the data we need to optimize deliveries for sustainable cities. Urban freight operations are run by a complex network of private and public sector actors. Often, the most comprehensive data available lies with the private sector, and rarely are there agreements in place for that data to be shared.
Himanshu Raj and Dana Vigran write about the lack of urban freight data on the ICLEI website. City logistics solutions should be evidence-based and designed to address the needs of these multiple stakeholders. For local governments, collecting and updating urban freight data can be expensive, and often they do not have the resources to source high-quality data, limiting their ability to implement data-driven policy.
Urban freight movement data can be collected using three main techniques: general commodity flow and commercial transport survey, specific stakeholder surveys of shippers, transporters, retailers, and vehicle-specific surveys on vehicle usage and driver practices. However, the lack of an established and accepted methodology means that the data gaps on urban freight are not only large but also diverse and variable.
There are emerging techniques and ideas on how to bridge these gaps. New technology offers the possibility to collect significant quantities of urban freight data at relatively low cost compared to previous techniques. Technology can also improve the visibility of freight traffic flows and improve how and when goods are delivered. Companies are embracing technology to improve efficient deliveries. Collecting and sharing data also offers opportunities to reduce freight trips. Services such as route optimization and telematics for vehicles can be used to aid scheme design and inform local delivery plans.
However, stronger collaboration between the public sector and freight operators is needed to make vital datasets more widely and freely available. Through the EcoLogistics project, ICLEI is working with local and regional governments in Argentina, Colombia, and India to identify the primary data gaps on urban freight and develop a common methodology for data collection which will address these gaps. The results will be used as a baseline to understand the flow of goods in project cities and accurately quantify the impact of urban freight.