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New take on getting parcels to your door

February 19, 2019

New take on getting parcels to your door

The next time you order a sweater it could arrive at your doorstep with help from a new “warehouse on wheels” – currently being trialled in London – that has the potential to help cut traffic, reduce emissions, and improve delivery times.

From groceries to fashion, the growth in online shopping across Europe means the number of parcel deliveries is expected to double in the next ten years. Most of these deliveries are fulfilled by vans, leading to escalating congestion in many cities with average journey times in London having risen by more than 40 per cent in just three years. As a result, carriers are under increasing pressure to deliver more parcels, more quickly, with less cost, while continuing to ensure employee welfare and environmental responsibility.

Bike couriers unloading last mile delivery bicycles from a Ford Transit Custom PHEV

Now, we are trialling a new digital delivery service, in partnership with Gnewt by Menzies Distribution, that will efficiently coordinate multiple modes of transport including pedestrian and – one day – bicycle couriers.

During the trial, Gnewt’s “last mile” delivery service will be driven by our intelligent cloud based, multi modal routing and logistics software MoDe:Link, that manages all aspects of parcel delivery from depot to doorstep. This could help couriers, fleet managers, logistics and food delivery companies optimise processes and increase van utilisation, saving time and money while boosting capacity.

The service could also support the customer experience by offering improved delivery windows and reducing costs, speeding time from order to delivery by enabling vans to make more frequent round trips back to the depot. In addition, it could contribute to healthier streets and reduced traffic in major cities, cutting congestion around valuable kerb space where vans typically load and unload.

Ford Transit Custom PHEV in Last Mile Delivery trials with Gnewt

“Our goal is to keep larger vehicles like delivery vans operating in the high load, less congested environments in which they perform best,” said Tom Thompson, project lead, Ford Mobility. “However, for the last mile of a journey into an urban area, where congestion and lack of parking can be a challenge, it makes sense to offload deliveries to more nimble, efficient and cost effective modes of transport.”

We are committed to tackling urban mobility challenges, in particular the deliveries of goods and services, through innovation, technology and partnerships. The “warehouse on wheels” concept is designed to be compatible both with our vans and those of other manufacturers. These vans then act as dynamic delivery hubs that collect orders from a depot and then briefly stop at strategic locations determined to be the most efficient for each batch of orders. Our proprietary software platform coordinates with nearby foot couriers – or potentially with bicycle couriers, drones and autonomous robots in the future – to fulfil the last leg of each delivery.

Smart, sustainable deliveries

Multi modal deliveries like these have the potential to be faster, cheaper and offer greater capacity than van-only deliveries. We estimate that one van and a team of four couriers on foot or bicycle could be used to deliver the same number of parcels as five individual vans when working as part of a multi modal network.

For the London trial, we are partnering with Gnewt, a sustainable urban parcel delivery service and winner of the 2018 U.K. Sustainable Logistics Company of the Year.

Last mile delivery bicycles unloaded from a Ford Transit Custom PHEV

Gnewt operates the largest fully electric delivery fleet in the UK with more than 70 electric vans and has pioneered sustainable last‑mile delivery services, working with leading retailers, e‑commerce companies and logistics firms to deliver three million parcels a year to consumers and businesses in London.

Working with Transport for London and with several universities as part of the FTC2050 research project, Gnewt has been trailing urban portering services to measure the impact of this new approach as a model for reducing the number of vans needed to fulfil deliveries and cut emissions.

“We want to change the way we think about moving goods around our cities,” said Sam Clarke, founder and head of business development, Gnewt. “We are keen to understand how multi‑modal deliveries can benefit our business, our customers, and – by promoting active travel and the associated health and environmental benefits of walking and cycling – our employees too. We are delighted to be working with Ford and helping to trial its revolutionary new software solution.”

Delivering the last mile

The U.K. Government has also recognised the need to develop smarter delivery solutions for urban areas, launching an open consultation to further explore last‑mile deliveries and the opportunities available to deliver goods more sustainably. The call for evidence, to which we have responded, seeks to examine the environmental benefits of micro‑vehicles, e‑cargo bikes, and measures to improve logistical efficiency.

“Freight and deliveries are central to supporting London’s economy, with half of the value of the capital’s household expenditure relying on it,” said Michael Hurwitz, director of transport innovation, Transport for London. “However, congestion and poor air quality are some of the biggest challenges the city faces. More last‑mile deliveries made in this way, alongside the growth of micro‑consolidation centres, are essential to tackle the pollution problem and keeping the roads moving. Ford’s harnessing of technology to change the model for supplying homes and businesses should be applauded and is an example for others in the sector to follow.”

Bike courier using the MoDe:Link app

Building on the company’s success as the top‑selling commercial vehicle brand in Europe, the London trial is one of several initiatives in which we are looking to address delivery and urban mobility challenges in the city of tomorrow.

In the U.K., we are working with Transport for London on a multi‑million‑pound project to trial 20 plug‑in hybrid Transit vans that run solely on electric power for most city trips. The trial is being extended to the City of Valencia, Spain and Cologne, Germany this year. In the U.S., we continue to innovate in urban goods and service deliveries as it prepares for a future with self‑driving vehicles. We have teamed up with Postmates, an on‑demand delivery platform in Miami and Miami Beach to operate a self-driving delivery service.