What if the neighbors came to deliver your parcels from now on? It was a hilarious idea from the Dutch TV program Koefnoen in 2016. Okko and Eus walk with their wagon through the neighborhood, delivering parcels. With all the car-free plans, there may be a future in community shipping as a sustainable option for delivering packages and collecting returns.
Community shipping raises many questions. What do the various stakeholders think of the idea: the delivery company, the community shippers, the government, and the consumer? Trust plays a key role. Can we make it happen with involved (senior) residents like Okko and Eus? Will we do it with commuters who are on the road anyway? Or will it be the next generation of hurried, quick commerce deliverers on too-fast e-bikes? What does it mean for social cohesion in the neighborhood?
You must stimulate community drivers to do it (and for what fee) on a lovely nice summer afternoon and on a wet Saturday before Christmas. You must get them to deliver by walking, biking, or public transportation. Not by car!
Community shipping raises questions about white-label collaboration at neighborhood hubs and with existing logistics providers. Can smart combinations be devised with parcel lockers and pickup points? It does change the revenue model in the chain. This always leads to discussions about the joys, burdens, and legal responsibilities. Municipalities, project developers, and property owners can actively participate in the transition. We don’t have to expect innovation from the big parcel delivery companies.
Smart technology (app, software, open data, privacy, data integration, and AI) is needed to make community shipping possible. And you need to prevent community shipping from becoming the next giga-gig economy platform. Therefore, social, equality and fiscal regulations are areas of concern.
Relevant research has been done on sustainable crowd shipping. The lessons learned are ‘mixed’. With more car traffic, the crowd shippers work out of financial necessity, low fees, and no one benefits. Researchers also see opportunities.
Community shipping sounds like a sympathetic plan. In any case, it is a subject for students and researchers to get seriously involved in. Who knows, it might turn out to be something! If we don’t forget to put the consumer first.
Walther Ploos van Amstel.