4 oct 19

Last mile delivery solutions have to focus upstream of final mile

A British manufacturing company is working with UPS to develop an alternative to vans for last mile deliveries, focusing on a solution that starts a long way upstream of the final mile.

Fernhay’s engineers are developing a zero emission mechanised trailer that brings efficiencies throughout the delivery chain. The company’s aim is not simply to offer answers to climate change and urban air quality problems, but also to help delivery firms avoid the problems posed by congestion.

Beating congestion

The unpredictability of city centre traffic has become a serious issue for logistics firms that have to work to strict performance targets. Customers now expect their parcel deliveries to be made within very narrow time windows. With a typical courier van making 120 stops in a six-hour shift, and delivering between 12 and 15 parcels every hour, avoiding traffic delays and finding places to park in crowded and increasingly pedestrianised city centres is an ever growing challenge.

“Climate change and air quality issues can all be dealt with by vans moving from diesels to better diesels or electric vehicles,” said Robin Haycock, director of Fernhay. “The real challenge is congestion – how do you get a parcel to its destination on time for a timed delivery?”

Cycle logistics can work in certain environments, but they are restricted and not scaleable for the world’s major delivery businesses, said Haycock.

Scaleable solution

“If you really want to make a significant difference then you have to work out a system that is scaleable in large cities at volume. If you try to solve the last mile by just thinking about the last mile you will not solve the problem,” he said.

Fernhay’s solution is a box, called Fresh, whose dimensions are tailored to work with other links in the logistics chain. Three of the 740mm-wide boxes fit side-by-side in a standard 3.5 tonne trailer, which means the boxes can be used upstream of the last mile and even at a country level to remove the double handling of parcels at the earliest point in the journey.

These dimensions make the boxes highly efficient to transport from a suburban depot to a city centre destination, where a van deposits them in an “In an underutilised asset, such as a shopfront or underground car park,” said Haycock. Delivery operators then collect the mechanised boxes, which have a 250w motor, from these locations and tow them either by bike (the Breathe product) or in a walking mode (the Air product). Each Fresh box has a payload of 200kg and 1.3 cubic metres of load space. Two trailers can be coupled together like train carriages.

Neat and nimble solution

Haycock added that the 740mm-wide box is significantly narrower than most e-bike boxes, and is therefore nimbler, fitting on pavements. This means operators can navigate them through old city streets and between road furniture such as bollards.

“We ended up mechanising the boxes so we could start having two or three or four boxes on the same assets when we go downtown. This allows six hours of work for an operator,” said Haycock, who was speaking at Cenex LCV.

The system is due to start trials in Dublin, Ireland in November.

Because Last Mile Challenges will only increase in the near future, hence have an impact on smart fleet and mobility management, Fleet Europe has decided to launch the second Connected Fleets Conference with a focus on Parcel Delivery and Last Mile Solutions.
The expert conference will take place in Brussels, on 28 and 29 January. For more information and registration details, please visit the event website

Authored by: Jonathan Manning