Citylogistics - digitalisation and environmental protection for liveable cities

What does urban logistics mean in everyday life? What impact can it have on the lives of citizens, cities, organisations and businesses? This article explores the topic from an economic, transport and sustainability perspective.

Urban logistics is a complex, interdisciplinary professional sector - essentially meaning the transport and delivery of goods and commodities in urban areas to end users - but it adds value to modern urban ecosystems not only by managing the tasks arising from economic flows, but also by considering the relationships and impacts between people, information and organisations.


Urban logistics focuses on urban traffic, including traffic quality, time use, road demand, intersections and their occupancy rates, and traffic safety, which looks at potential conflicts and accidents. The environment, its quality (emissions, noise) and energy use are also important issues. As regards economic aspects, costs, investment, maintenance costs, reliability and flexibility will be examined, as will the stakeholders (citizens, service providers, local authorities).


Optimisation objectives in transport and freight

As a starting point, with more than half of the world's population living in cities, urban logistics has become an important factor in the development of urban freight transport. With the constant increase in the number of trucks, congestion and environmental pollution are on the increase. Sustainability is a major focus of urban logistics, as the complexity of the urban environment has made logistics services much more complex and difficult to organise. The transport of perishable goods to the city centre requires short delivery times, frequent and adequate transport services to serve the population properly, but at a fixed time of day and without disturbing the population. From this point of view, transport optimisation objectives may include better use of transport vehicles, increasing transport performance, increasing the frequency of transport - with the same or fewer vehicles. The combined implementation of organised freight transport and controlled HGV movements means the coordination of freight transport, the reduction of environmental pollution and of the accidents due to less traffic, the rapid replacement of goods and the promotion of sustainability objectives through the use of intermodal logistics services.


Challenges for the urban ecosystem

This of course brings with it a number of challenges in running an urban ecosystem: congestion, lack of space, and the last mile of the supply chain - typically the most risky and costly part of the supply chain - but also air pollution, environmental pressures.

The growth of e-commerce has significantly increased the demand for transport services - a change that is also exacerbating traffic and transport challenges. Ensuring good communication and cooperation between businesses, transport providers, local authorities and residents is also a major challenge.

What solutions exist to overcome these challenges?

One solution to the challenges mentioned above is to set up pick-up points for e-commerce, but this is only an option for smaller parcels. One of the biggest problems for last-mile delivery is the lack of parking spaces, to which parking management (digital or other traffic management) solutions can be applied. In terms of demand, there is a growing expectation for same-day delivery, providing continuous and up-to-date information on the status of deliveries, addressing sustainability needs and the parking management issues mentioned above. It has been demonstrated that only those operating models that do not use bundling, extensive information exchange and even the sharing of transport and infrastructure assets in isolation, but taking into account economies of scale, will be competitive.

Digitalisation trends to increase efficiency and achieve more sustainable operations

Digitalisation trends are also providing answers to the challenges in the field of city logistics, with the increasing adoption of cloud-based solutions being a prominent trend. Cloud solutions are powered by real-time data and enable more efficient management and planning. Automation and artificial intelligence are also optimising urban freight transport and warehousing processes, such as route planning, warehouse management and stock management. IoT (Internet of Things) devices can be used to monitor vehicles, warehouses and goods in real time. In addition, blockchain can help increase transparency, secure data storage and track transactions. Speaking of data, data analytics, the transformation of data into relevant information, should be mentioned as an efficiency tool.

An interesting and innovative direction is the growing role of self-driving vehicles, robots and drones in urban freight transport, which brings with it a number of other challenges and regulatory requirements.

Environmental trends and directions

We cannot ignore today's prominent environmental and sustainability trends, which are relevant to all areas of operation. Green logistics and sustainability contribute to sustainability goals through the use of low emission vehicles, electric vehicles and alternative fuels. It also includes quiet and zero-emission transport, which involves the use of alternative and innovative solutions to reduce noise and air pollution, such as electric trucks, cycling and walking delivery. Micrologistics and community warehouses allow for more efficient distribution of goods and shorter transport distances, thereby reducing traffic congestion and negative environmental impacts.

Lastly, recycling and reuse can be used to return empty unit loads from city logistics centres, as well as empty and/or used packaging and waste.

Overall, well-designed, well-conceived and ready-to-use urban logistics contribute to making transport and freight more sustainable, while minimising environmental impacts and pressures, and making the daily lives of citizens, city operations and related service companies more liveable and easier.



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