Logistics in the “new normal”

The road transport sector had its resilience sorely tested by COVID-19. However, with other challenges now emerging, transport operators are going to have to work harder and smarter than ever before in order to sustain their businesses.

The implementation of Clean Air Zones (CAZs) has been called a tax on trucks and a war on white vans. Many operators breathed a sigh of relief when the first wave of CAZs were postponed, but that only buys them a bit more time to prepare. A growing number of studies show that those living and working in cities do not want to relinquish the air quality benefits which came about as a result of lockdown.

In fact, many local authorities are presently ploughing ahead with plans for increased pedestrianisation and more bike lanes in city and town centres. This is expected to lead to a further fracturing of the logistics market, particularly for final-mile delivery, with e-cargo bikes playing an increasing role. Indeed, it could be problematic for van operators if the current surge in demand for home delivery continues. However, it is also expected to create more opportunities for smaller and medium sized companies (SMEs), as well as changing how goods are delivered.

“It is possible to expand home delivery in a way that is both sustainable and profitable,” said Colin Ferguson, CEO of The Algorithm People. “There will be huge opportunities here for smaller, more agile companies to enter the market for final-mile deliveries. They could all benefit from the type of route optimisation software that was previously only available to much larger firms.

“The Government has recently allocated millions to its e-cargo bike fund and billions to bike lanes. We therefore expect to see increased use of e-cargo bikes in city centres – and My Transport Planner is already capable of optimising them.

“Pedestrianisation will require a more multi-modal approach and potentially mobile hubs, where commercial vehicles make stops around the outskirts of urban areas and are met by electric vehicles. Optimisation could make a huge difference to the efficiency of such operations.”

Climate change

The other important issue when it comes to emissions is climate change. If major corporations retain their current climate change commitments, it appears increasingly likely that they will look to their supply chains to deliver some of the carbon cuts they need in order to meet those objectives.

However, money for new vehicles is tight, and many SMEs do not have the luxury of sustainability departments to draft carbon reduction strategies. Recognising this problem, The Algorithm People offers a consultative service based on My Transport Planner to create a Decarbonisation Road Map for their clients. The company uses the algorithms in My Transport Planner to demonstrate which vehicles and routes can be electrified to deliver the highest possible economical and environmental return on investment. The savings that the system delivers by optimising the whole fleet can be used to fund procurement of more low emission vehicles, helping to create a virtuous cycle.

“This approach removes the guesswork from investing in EVs, allowing fleets to make properly informed purchasing decisions,” said Colin.

While larger companies have the resource to plan their route to decarbonisation, their transport teams often have another major headache – getting all their software systems to talk to each other. My Transport Planner Pro can integrate with these systems via API, helping to simplify the ‘data digestion’ process for transport managers.

“Data can very easily end up in silos, which creates its own problems,” added Ferguson. Ultimately, we are here to make work easier for transport managers as well as cutting costs and emissions from their vehicle operations. Data is only any good if it is accessible and easy to use.”

If you would like to find out more about pay-as-you-go route optimisation or electric vehicle optimisation, please talk to us.