There are too many deliveries being made in the UK. Does that sound like something you’d agree with? Maybe if you’re an etailer not hitting your targets you’d disagree. But according to the Local Government Association (LGA) the increase in ecommerce web traffic has led to a corresponding increase in road traffic.
That’s right, the LGA says there are too many LGVs (that’s light goods vehicles, or vans) which are causing LQTs (long queues of traffic – OK, I admit I made that last one up).
Here are some of the figures the LGA has recently released:
- The distance travelled by the UK’s vans has risen by around 20% in the last seven years
- Average speeds on the country’s A-roads have fallen by 4% since 2014
- There was a 23% increase in the amount spent with the UK’s top 20 online retailers between 2015/6 and 2016/7
So, what have we learned? Well, online shopping goes up, creating more demand for deliveries, leading to a growth in the number of vans on the roads, which is contributing to traffic congestion.
But that’s not all.
Credit: ITV News, PA
Cracking up in the cold weather
Have you seen how many potholes there are on the roads? They’re an even bigger problem than you probably realise, and they’re definitely on the increase.
We’ve just experienced one of the most prolonged and severe winters in the UK for several years, with ice, snow, and freezing temperatures covering parts of the country that usually escape the worst of the bad weather. §ter in. At 4ºC water contracts. But as it reaches 0ºC it starts to expand – causing cracking and loosening of the road surface. That’s why there are more potholes after a cold snap, and there really are more of them.
The situation is so bad that one-in-five local roads in the UK are going to become unusable within the next five years, according to the Asphalt Industry Alliance. That’s two surprising facts in one sentence – first that many roads could wear out within five years, and second that there’s something called the Asphalt Industry Alliance.
But that’s still not all.
This epidemic of potholes is apparently contributing to another epidemic – obesity. That’s right, too many potholes can make you fat.
Who would say such an alarming thing? The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, also known as NICE. According to NICE, the poor state of the UK’s roads is deterring people from walking, cycling, and running. Not so nice.
All joking aside, there is a well-documented threat to people’s health from the rise in delivery traffic and increase in congestion in particular. And that threat comes from fumes, which could be responsible for as many as 40,000 early deaths per year in the UK, according to a joint report from four parliamentary committees.
Short-term action needed
That’s roughly equivalent to the population of Stirling or Great Yarmouth, who have populations of slightly less than 40,000 each. It also costs the UK around £20 billion a year. And while there are lots of local initiatives in place to try to alleviate some of the effects of toxic air, there’s no real end in sight; the whole thing has become unsustainable.
We’re still nowhere near a numerically meaningful adoption of electric vehicles in the UK, and so every increase in online shopping is going to generate vehicle pollution. While the introduction of cleaner vehicles will take decades, something needs to be done in the short-term. No one is likely to put forward an argument for banning ecommerce. If they did, they’d be laughed at. Which leaves the delivery end of the ecommerce equation as the one ripest for intervention.
But it will need to be an intervention that is acceptable to all parties concerned – retailers, shoppers, and delivery companies. It would be pointless to levy fines or introduce expensive layers of complexity and compliance on couriers, whose margins are already wafer-thin in many cases. But based on past evidence (congestion charges, higher vehicle duty rates for diesel engines, and so on) it might be the most likely eventuality.
More carrot, less stick
What might work better though is a carrot, rather than a stick. Financial penalties attached to people’s everyday lives and businesses are little more than a form of indirect taxation. The money goes to the Exchequer, is generally never diverted into a fund to address the problem, the person who paid the levy goes about their business as usual but bearing a greater cost burden. Nothing positive has been achieved.
But what if there were incentives to encourage smarter solutions to many of the last mile’s challenges? It might be tax breaks or a credit toward your business rates for setting up collection and drop-off points. Perhaps there could be incentives for shoppers to have their online purchases sent to communal collection points rather than sent to them at home or at work. Yes, I know there are already many retailers offering cheaper delivery costs for click and collect, but I’m talking about a formalised scheme, with a brand identity, supported by the wider delivery ecosystem. Something with the joint aim of reducing the overall number of driven miles for deliveries and ensuring customers still get a great service.
I’m sure there are plenty of reasons why any of those ideas might not work. But saying no is easy. After all, it’s one of the first words children learn to say – if that’s how easy saying no is, then surely we need to start saying yes more often. Because something has to change.
Sebastian Steinhauser, CEO & Founder of Parcelly comments: 'Right from the onset when starting out with Parcelly click&collect back in 2014, we have been highly vocal about the fact that the traditional last-mile logistics model was not sustainable. Not only from rising consumer expectations and a resource and supply chain pressures' point of view but most importantly from an environmental and CSR perspective.
By building our business model around a sharing economy concept, and putting sustainability first, we have created a nationwide network of carrier and retailer agnostic PUDO locations that serves two major benefits: amplified through smart technology, we facilitate omnichannel strategies and assist stakeholders across the entire supply chain to move from a static transportation network to a dynamic network that flexes based on capacity and demand. Secondly, our sustainable service options for logistics and ecommerce partners efficiently bundle and streamline first- and last-mile solutions and help make the future of ecommerce manageable, collaborative and most of all sustainable again.'
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Credit (header): Evening Standard