Local authorities have five roles in city logistics: regulate and enforce, facilitate, stimulate, coordinate, and experiment. What eight elements should be in every city logistics plan? Those plans should provide clear guidance for companies in, for example, construction, facilities, parcel, service logistics, and circular flows; what is in store for them?
- What problems do you want to solve?
Determine what problems you want to solve in the following years and in which neighborhoods. For example, is it a public space issue (fewer vehicles), an enforcement problem like sidewalk parking, or is it about clean air? Do you want fewer accidents involving trucks, or can the infrastructure no longer handle all that heavy traffic?
City logistics, by the way, is not only annoying but valuable to residents and business owners. Without logistics, everything grinds to a halt. Balancing the often conflicting interests must be done in advance; city logistics is part of mobility, and mobility is a derivative of what kind of city you want to be for whom. Make clear choices and set priorities that fit the resources you have.
- Be specific about zero emission zones (and exemptions)
At the top of business owners’ wish lists is clarity on the announced zero emission zones, waivers, introduction dates, and admission of hybrid vehicles. This affects every business owner who needs to bring goods into the city. Municipalities still have much to do before that. How to avoid fifty shades of gray with varying local measures. And what are the problems with grid congestion? You let the businesses solve that themselves?
Many municipalities develop their city logistics implementation agenda separate from the zero-emission plans of their sustainability agenda. Often the topics fall under two different aldermen. That’s not good. However, the city logistics implementation agenda can support the zero-emission goals with privileges, intelligent access management, an approach to charging infrastructure for city logistics, and tendering and permits in construction logistics.
- Work on specific areas first
In recent years, the focus on sustainable area development has increasingly broadened to an integrated approach in which city logistics is better coordinated with spatial and mobility developments. City logistics plans must be drawn up for each neighborhood depending on its morphology (and linked to local SUMP plans). For example, is it a new commuting neighborhood, a busy city center, or a neighborhood where accessibility will be an issue in the coming years?
The area-based approach focuses on the recipients in the hospitality and retail sector, particularly the parties for home delivery (parcels, meals, and groceries). What agreements are you going to make with them? What measures will you take, such as preferential freight routes, vehicle restrictions (weight, length, axle load), speed, time-windows, and space for loading and unloading (and its enforcement)? Are neighborhood hubs and microhubs perhaps a solution? With an area-specific approach, you lay the groundwork for intelligent access management, who can and cannot enter.
To be specific local authorities need reliable data from companies on goods flows, trip characteristics, and route choices first. This might be the ‘weakest link’ in many plans.
- Address construction logistics
Construction logistics is the most significant urban logistics flow. Lots of heavy traffic, with large peaks in volumes and an endless stream of construction and service vans. As a major client and permit issuer, a municipality can accomplish much here in the short term. Consider setting strict construction logistics requirements in the tender and land portfolios and setting logistics requirements when granting an environmental permit. This can be done for construction safety or conditions during execution, such as in a BLVC plan (for Accessibility, Livability, Safety, and Communication).
There is a win-win scenario for municipalities and construction companies here. On the one hand, sustainable construction logistics in cities ensure less congestion, more safety, and reduced emissions. But on the other hand, it forces construction companies to reduce polluting movements through greater efficiency and ultimately lower costs.
- Road safety: tackle behavior and enforce strictly
Heavy trucks and vans are overrepresented in accidents with injuries, two to three times more often than passenger vehicles. And the consequences of the accident are usually more severe. In the four major Dutch cities, about 400 people are seriously injured in truck traffic accidents yearly. Sometimes due to speeding, blind spots, or simply drivers’ inattention. Cyclists and pedestrians are usually the victims.
A city logistics plan that does not address traffic safety is not finished. Make a plan to manage driver behavior and enforce it strictly. Do not forget the growing group of meal and flash drivers in the plans. Adjust infrastructure where it makes sense, provide data on traffic (for rush hour avoidance and school avoidance), and better regulate traffic lights. In the longer term, consider Direct Vision standards.
- Create space for city logistics
Many municipalities seem to be chasing short-term land returns and have no attention to the long-term social importance of logistics space around the city (including for dark kitchens and construction hubs on the waterfront). Only a few municipalities have a future-oriented hub strategy; what space is needed, where is that space available, and what requirements do you set for companies that will locate there? Municipalities can hold businesses accountable for sustainable urban logistics with such a strategy.
- Work together with frontrunners
In the past, municipalities chose to cooperate with industry associations. The question is whether cooperation with frontrunners in the various sectors who set a good example would not be much better. How can you facilitate them? You organize communication and knowledge sharing with the business community in local networks. You ultimately want to change business behavior. You can’t do that from behind your desk. Don’t forget to collaborate with companies that provide software for onboard computers; how do you involve drivers in smart, safe, and clean city logistics?
Suppliers and logistics service providers, because of driver shortages and difficult-to-reach inner cities, see the usefulness but not yet the necessity of innovation or cooperation. If successful experiments such as bundling (with white label solutions) or transport by water are possible, the local authorities should give entrepreneurs certainty and clarity about participation. Give local experiments room to succeed.
- Provide sufficient resources
Addressing city logistics requires the efforts of many municipal departments and city districts. Coordinate plans within the municipality, for example, who gets what mandate. And what were the lessons learned from previous initiatives? Why has so little been achieved so far?
Implementing all these ambitions cannot be done without committed city workers. It would be best to have an expert city logistics team of policymakers and the necessary executive and enforcement capacity and resources for research and your experiments (such as with public procurement and making the municipal fleet sustainable).
If you don’t invest now, it won’t happen, and city logistics will continue to grow. Then air pollution, congestion, sidewalk parking, and unsafety will remain. The city will not become more attractive and certainly not more car-free.
Walther Ploos van Amstel.