In recent years, cities have begun to test new and innovative solutions to addressing last mile problems in urban areas. New technologies, smarter tracking and information systems are providing opportunities, as they make it easier for delivery solutions to be better tailored to specific situations. Amongst the numerous potential solutions, automated parcel lockers appear to be one of the most promising.
ULaaDS, an EU-funded project, aims to explore innovations in urban logistics and study the potential re-localisation of logistics activities, which will help to re-configure freight flows at different scales. In its Dutch pilot, in Groningen, the project will deploy smart parcel lockers in a park-and-ride in Heemskerk, about 10 km outside of the city centre. According to the Civitas ULaaDS project, mobility hubs are one of the most attractive locations for parcel lockers as people can easily incorporate a pickup into their daily commute. In this case, packages delivered during the day to the lockers can be picked up by commuters returning home before they get into their cars.
Automated lockers, as they have a smaller footprint and lower capacity, can be flexibly located, although they need to be distributed across a wide network to increase the ease of access for customers without significantly complicating a delivery driver’s route. For this reason, placement is the most important factor to determine how successful such lockers will be. If lockers are poorly located or spread too thinly throughout the city, they can become a source of unnecessary car trips. Solutions, such as the one being trialled in Groningen, are part of a wider effort to determine how to best integrate parcel lockers into the rapidly changing and innovating area of last-mile logistics.
From a logistic operator’s perspective, one of the most significant advantages of parcel lockers is that operators will no longer need to visit each customer individually. As a result, operators save time and costs, reduce their emissions and contribute less to traffic congestion. In addition, operators need fewer drivers, and subsequently fewer vehicles, to deliver the same number of packages. From a customer’s perspective, there are also benefits as they will no longer have to wait at home for deliveries.
The project also highlights that the use of parcel lockers in strategic locations can have a synergistic effect with active transport, as they can encourage pickup by walking or cycling, thus reducing traffic and creating positive health and environmental effects.
- Publication date
- 21 March 2022
- Urban freight/city logistics