5 fleet solutions to cities’ anti-traffic plans
Faced with traffic bans, workplace parking levies and pedestrianised areas, businesses are exploring new ways of operating to maintain access to clients
Fleets are trialling and adopting innovative solutions to combat the growing number of vehicle restrictions in urban areas. The pressures of congestion and the prioritisation of road space for walking and cycling mean transitioning to electric vehicles may not be enough for businesses to maintain 24/7 access to large areas of Europe’s major cities.
In Berlin, the city government is formally considering a petition of more than 50,000 citizens, led by the campaign group Berlin Autofrei, to restrict all streets within the S-Bahn ring road to walking, cycling and public transport (with exceptions for emergency services and delivery traffic). If successful, the campaign would lead to a referendum that would create the largest car-free urban zone in the world, of about 88 square kilometres.
Paris is further advanced with plans to ban vehicles from four central arrondissements of its city centre, through Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s proposed ‘Paris Respire, Zone Apaisee’ programme that would ban through traffic, although it indicates that delivery vehicles and tradesmen may still have access.
London: 27% cut in car traffic
Across the Channel, London has been busy reallocating tens of thousands of square metres of extra pavement space for walking, as well as upgrading more than 120km of cycle lanes, all since May 2020, as it aims to combat air pollution and cut congestion. The threat of a car-led recovery from Covid-19 has prompted strong messages from the city’s leaders, with a new report, commissioned by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, calling for a 27 per cent reduction in car vehicle kilometres by 2030 to support London’s goal of becoming net zero carbon by the end of the decade. London’s transport strategy says public transport, walking and cycling are the most efficient use of road space, enabling more people to travel per hour compared to cars.
“Whilst we have made huge strides in increasing walking and cycling in London throughout the pandemic, car use has remained consistently high,” said Khan. “If we do not double down on our efforts to deliver a greener, more sustainable future we will replace one public health crisis with another – caused by filthy air and gridlocked roads. The cost to both Londoners and the capital cannot be underestimated, with days wasted stuck in traffic, billions lost to the economy and increased road danger and health impacts. Most traffic is caused simply by there being too great a demand for limited street space, meaning the only long-term solution can be to significantly reduce car use in favour of greener means of travel.”
Workplace parking taxes
And in Leicester, UK, the council is consulting city residents on plans to introduce an annual workplace parking levy of £550 (€650) per parking space on companies with more than 10 parking spaces. A similar scheme already exists in Nottingham, charging employers with 11 or more parking spaces £428 per year for each space (the tax applies to approximately 25,000 spaces).
Madrid, Milan and Rome have all introduced their own traffic reduction measures, while Mechelen in Belgium bans cars from certain strategic streets between the hours of 11am and 6pm, and Seville in southern Spain stripped out 5,000 parking spaces to create 160km of joined up cycle network in the early 2000s, making life harder for motorists and easier for cyclists.
Faced with these restrictions, logistics and service technician fleets are implementing strategies that will enable them to continue serving clients based in vehicle-free areas.
These programmes include:
1. Pick-up and drop-off lockers
Locker banks allow courier firms to deliver packages to a single destination, from where customers can collect their parcels in their own time. This avoids missed deliveries and sharply reduces the number of vehicles and journey distances required by logistics firms. Polish company InPost, which operates locker compartments, claims they reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 75% compared to home delivery. It has 15,000 of these automated parcel machines (APMs) each with multiple lockers in Poland, and has doubled its UK coverage in the last six months to almost 3,000 with a target of having 10,000 APMs by 2024. Amazon is installing a similar network.
In the UK, 75% of consumers live within 1.6km (walking distance) of a locker unit.
2. Micro consolidation
This strategy sees all deliveries destined for a workplace or an apartment building diverted to a dedicated micro-consolidation centre, which then makes one delivery per day. This avoids the need for couriers to make deliveries throughout the day, substantially reducing the number of vehicles on the road. A demonstrator project in London found that a single head office saved 2,700 commercial vehicle movements and 24,000km of vehicle journeys in 12 months, reducing the average number of 21 delivery vehicles per day to just one drop per day from the consolidation centre.
3. Secure boxes
Service technicians can waste hours every day driving to depots and parts stores for replacement parts. Pelipod, a subsidiary of telecoms giant BT, has created secure delivery boxes housed in ‘intelligent’ lockers, so one vehicle can distribute parts to all engineers, rather than every engineer driving to fetch parts. The boxes are ‘connected’ so as soon as a part arrives, the box triggers a notification to the engineer. BT installed intelligent lockers at over 500 of its sites for its own use and now has lockers at over 1,800 of its sites that other companies can use to reduce the frequency and distance of journeys.
4. E-cargo bikes
Electric cargo bikes are not only being used by logistics and courier businesses – construction firm FM Conway is deploying them to cut its carbon footprint and reduce the number of vehicles travelling in central London. The e-cargo bikes are carrying building materials, such as bags of sand and boxes of fittings, with a payload of up to 250kg. They are fitted with an electric pedal assist motor to help the rider and GPS tracking to provide an overview of their locations at any given time.
5. Mobility as a Service
The concept of uniting bus, train, tram and micro-mobility options, such as bike and scooter hire, into a single app-based service for people travelling both to and for work looks set to become ever more popular as car travel becomes more difficult. Mobility as a Service combines these options, often adding car hire, taxis and ride hailing into a complete package. Industry experts increasingly talk of mobility allowances being offered to employees in place of car lease allowances.
Images: Shutterstock, FM Conway