Are webstores causing traffic jams in our neighbourhoods?

Online shopping isn’t creating more congestion – and it won’t do that even when the number of web-store deliveries doubles to 200 million in 2020. But that doesn’t stop my neighbors from complaining all over social media about the increasing number of delivery vans in the street.

Those don’t just belong to the usual parcel delivery companies; there are also more vans from supermarkets and local shops that offer home delivery to customers in the neighborhood.

Our students found that the average street in Amsterdam already has 15 to 20 different cargo vans passing through each day. Some of them even do that three times a day. My neighbors don’t understand how that could possibly be necessary.

Tipping point

The tipping point is getting closer. More and more parcel delivery companies offer three delivery moments each day: morning, afternoon and evening. Two-man deliveries are becoming more and more common. Dutch supermarket giant Albert Heijn drives by several times each day, with a different delivery time for each neighbor. Soon they’ll be joined by the numerous other delivery vans. Local storeowners are no longer letting web stores walk away with their customers and have started delivering goods too. And more and more consumers are selling or sharing the stuff they no longer need through sites like e-Bay.

If things continue to develop in this way, there will be more than 50 delivery vans entering the street for home deliveries each day. That is hardly an attractive prospect. Something clearly needs to change.

Street size
A number of parcel delivery companies is gradually opting for vehicles that are far better suited to the actual size of the street; Light Electric Vehicles (LEV). But that’s all happening much too slowly. The Belgian company Bubble Post has starting making deliveries in the Benelux by cargo bike. That’s a good idea, especially since European research has shown that half of the deliveries within cities could easily be done by bike.

Delivery moment
Innovation needs to happen more quickly. To start with, the web stores – and their delivery people – need to increase their rate of good-in-one-go deliveries. In Europe that is currently only 75%. That means aquarter of all deliveries needto be repeated due to the consumer’s not being at home or to neighbors. That is not sustainable, but the consumer isn’t happy about it either. Let the consumers determine the delivery moment themselves.

New parcel-delivery chain
Next, in the coming two to three years, transporters will need to opt for smaller, light electric vehicles. After all, those delivery people are guests in my street. There’s no room there for chugging diesel vans. To be able to put those light electric vehicles to use efficiently, the entire parcel chain needs to be rethought, from the sorting centers all the way to my front door, with inexpensive “slow mobility” in large volumes to a decoupling point in the neighborhood and with valuable “personalized mobility” very finely meshed to my front door.

We also need to think more about collection points in residential neighborhoods. It’s not always necessary for parcels to be delivered to my front door, let alone to my kitchen. Finally, there is a need for collaboration between parcel delivery companies. So much more could fit into a vehicle if parcel delivery companies would bundle their volumes.

Are residential neighborhoods becoming overcrowded? Absolutely! Parcel delivery companies and web stores are already responding to that development, but they will need to act much more quickly. It won’t be long before it will be very hard to explain to my neighbors why so many delivery vans keep entering our street.

Walther Ploos van Amstel.

Leave a Reply

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