The impact of parcel service providers on urban traffic: the case of Vienna

Current urban city logistics literature often claims that rising ecommerce and the associated courier, express, and parcel(CEP) deliveries are inherently responsible for the increase in urban road traffic and the related congestion, disturbances, and delays within cities. However, existing research is so far limited concerning studies to what extent CEPs impact and contribute to urban road traffic, particularly in comparison with other commercial sectors and passenger cars. In response, collecting data through an extensive empirical survey, counting urban road traffic in the city of Vienna in Austria, a new paper by Kummer et. al. identifies the share of CEPs and other selected categories of road vehicles.

Parcel delivery

The aim of this study was to empirically investigate the impact of CEPs and other vehicles on urban road traffic. To achieve this aim, the research team performed subsequent manual physical counting of different vehicle categories on critical traffic points in Vienna and used publicly available data for validation purposes. The results show that the share of CEPs accounts for only merely 0,8 percent of total urban road traffic in Vienna, thus this study contradicts the claim that CEPs are the main contributor to urban congestion and delays.


Craftsmen/technicians, in contrast, account for 6,0 percent and is thus almost seven times higher than the CEP share. Overall, vans and vehicles above 3.5t account for 13,5 percent of total traffic, while passenger cars comprise 86,5 percent. As a consequence, transport policies, which deal with an overall traffic reduction should consider all vehicle categories and the respective industry specific logistics efficiency capabilities.

By investigating the share of CEPs and other city logistics vehicles in urban road traffic, this paper provides three essential contributions to the literature. First, it provides an answer to the existing gap in the literature to what extent city logistics and CEPs impact and contribute to urban road traffic, thereby providing managers and academics with an empirical foundation of the traffic composition in cities. Second, this is the first study the specifically examines the share of delivery companies and differentiates between particular categories of delivery vehicles, thereby addressing the inherent uncertainty associated with the impact of delivery companies and other commercial sectors on urban road traffic. Third, the study substantiates the role of vans and CEPs in cities, thereby providing insight for future city logistics and traffic policies.

Limitations and future research

However, the results have to be viewed in light of its limitations. The study was restricted to the city of Vienna, so the research team is cautious to generalize the findings as other citiespopulation or density may lead to other results. Future research could measure specifically the impact of CEPs and other vehicles in other cities and highlight similarities and differences to their study. In addition, their data was collected mainly through manual physical counting. The use of advanced technology may help future researchers to simplify the process.

The team conducted their survey in the first half of the year and in a specific timeframe. Future research could expand surveys to other months and/or other times of the day to build a more comprehensive picture. It also seems that CEPs are confronted with a bad reputation, thus future research could investigate the rationale behind it. The calculation of the vans Other without label <7.5tis also rather practice-oriented, thus city logistics researchers could examine or validate the results with further research.

Although the study considers environmental aspects, future research may calculate or compare the specific carbon emissions caused by different vehicle types. As the first study that specifically investigated the share of CEPs on urban road traffic, they hope that future researchers will use this case to advance city logistics research and the results will spark further discussions on how to make cities more sustainable.

Source: Sebastian Kummer, Marko Hribernik, David M. Herold, Jasmin Mikl, Mario Dobrovnik, Stefan Schoenfelder, The impact of courier-, express- and parcel (CEP) service providers on urban road traffic: The case of Vienna, Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Volume 9, 2021

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