Delivery transport in cities

Roger OakdenGlobal Logistics

A bigger job with fewer trucks.

Reading the United Nations development program (UNDP) report Asia Pacific Human Development 2012, I was alerted to the important role that logisticians can play in making cities of the region livable.

By 2026, more than half the Asia Pacific region’s population will live in a city; and half the world’s mega cities will be located here. While cities occupy 2% of the Asia land area, they contribute more than 66% of greenhouse gases. Transport emits about one third of pollutants and badly maintained diesel engines are significant contributors.

With such a short time frame and pollution pressures, cities will not have the opportunity to grow first and clean up later. The challenge will be to address the problem as cities grow.

If the number of trucks is a problem, then how to reduce the volume? Studies in developed countries have shown that commercial vehicles are empty for up to 40% of the distance travelled; and under capacity for at least 60% of travel. These are trucks on the road, not earning their full income and producing pollution.

To improve the situation, articles have promoted collaboration between buyers of transport services and the providers. Improved utilisation of vehicles will require an attitude of co-operation between the people involved and co-ordination at the IT data level. Also recommended is buyers from non-competing businesses in different cities collaborate to enable full truckload return journeys. Both proposals are good, but will take time to implement as it requires a change in people’s behaviour.

In addition to longer term proposals, examples of how trucks can more quickly be removed from roads are required. One approach is the potential for developers and managers of shopping malls to make money by becoming part of the supply chains for their malls. Cross-dock distribution centres could be constructed on the city fringes, to reduce the number of vehicles travelling to and from the malls.

The mall managers, or even government, could insist that only full truckload vehicles enter malls. Retailers with less than truckload consignments would route their goods via the DCs. Their loads would be amalgamated with loads for other small retailers and only full trucks travel to the malls.

A start to reducing the number of delivery trucks has to be made. In Jakarta there are 130 shopping malls; more than any other city in the region. But all cities seem to have more shopping malls than they need. While collaboration between trading parties will achieve greater long term benefits, it will take time to achieve. Meanwhile, actual steps taken to reduce the number of vehicles has value – and these initiatives are demonstrable.

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About the Author

Roger Oakden

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With my background as a practitioner, consultant and educator, I am uniquely qualified to provide practical learning in supply chains and logistics. I have co-authored a book on these subjects, published by McGraw-Hill. As the program Manager at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, I developed and presented the largest supply chain post-graduate program in the Asia Pacific region, with centres in Melbourne, Singapore and Hong Kong. Read More...