May 24, 2022
Blog/ Helping local authorities to decarbonise local freight
In July last year, the government set out its commitment to reduce the UK’s emissions from both passenger and freight transport to zero by 2050 in the UK Transport Decarbonisation Plan. Freight transport currently accounts for one third of the UK’s overall transport emissions, so lower carbon freight solutions are urgently needed. Local freight – the transport of packages the last one or two miles to the customer – is a particularly pressing issue. The UK ranks first in Europe and third worldwide for online shopping and home deliveries, and cities are experiencing traffic problems as a result. Van movements in the UK have more than doubled in the last ten years and gridlock in urban areas is not only frustrating, but comes at a significant cost to the economy.
The role of local authorities
Given their deep understanding of their local areas, local authorities are potentially well-placed to decarbonise last mile delivery in their communities. But how should they go about it? The Local Government Association commissioned a report to help local authorities to answer this question.
Low carbon freight solutions favoured by local authorities
The UK Transport Decarbonisation Plan recommends freight consolidation (amassing shipments from multiple retailers at an edge-of-city hub, then grouping parcels by address for efficient onward dispatch), followed by onward transport to the customer by e-cargo bike to improve the sustainability of local freight. The local authorities surveyed for the report agreed that transporting goods the last mile by e-cargo bike could make a big impact in terms of reducing carbon emissions and congestion. Add consolidation centres and perhaps also access restrictions for goods vehicles into the mix and they thought the change could be even more transformative.
Here at Zedify we concur one hundred percent! With consolidation hubs in ten cities across the UK and thousands of cargo bike deliveries carried out each day, Zedify already operates the sustainable last mile freight service of the future. Not only do we show that low carbon local freight is viable; through our activities, we also experience its wider benefits to urban areas on a daily basis, in terms of clean air and calmer, safer and more liveable urban environments.
Compulsory consolidation of freight?
The idea of compulsory (as opposed to voluntary) freight consolidation, was also popular among local authority officers. If a scheme were mandatory, retailers would be obliged to direct their packages through the hub for onward delivery and couldn’t operate their own delivery vehicles. Levels of congestion and emissions would fall substantially and the hubs would be operationally and financially viable.
Some participants also thought that road pricing would be an effective measure to incentivise sustainable practices. Others suggested financial penalties for delivery companies dispatching half empty vans and shipping prices that deterred shoppers from selecting express delivery.
A group effort is required
It’s clear from the report that local authorities are looking for direction from central government on local freight. They need indications of the measures they can put in place themselves, as they believe they currently only have limited powers to implement the necessary changes. While they could nudge freight companies towards sustainable behaviour by establishing traffic restrictions, new regulatory powers will be required if they are to establish compulsory consolidation centres, for example. They will also require much more financial support to bring about substantive change.
Zedify welcomes the Local Government Association report
Zedify applauds the Local Government Association’s forethought in commissioning this report and thanks the participating local authorities for their contributions. It is great to see the solutions we believe in and champion every day being considered on a much larger scale.
We call on central government to provide a firm steer in terms of the policies and regulations required to establish sustainable local freight services nationwide. When these are in place, we then urge local authorities to be bold in taking the actions described above, which will not only cut carbon emissions, but also improve air quality and road safety, tackle congestion and make our cities nicer places to live.
With successful hubs up-and-running across the UK, we at Zedify are ready to scale further to bring the many benefits of low carbon last mile delivery to more cities across the UK. For more on sustainable local freight, talk to the Zedify team today.
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