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Understanding the impact of e-commerce on last-mile light goods vehicle activity in urban areas: the case of London

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

E-pub ahead of print
  • J. Allen
  • M. Piecyk
  • M. Piotrowska
  • F. McLeod
  • T. Cherrett
  • K. Ghali
  • T. Nguyen
  • T. Bektas
  • O. Bates
  • A. Friday
  • Sarah Wise
  • M. Austwick
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>29/07/2017
<mark>Journal</mark>Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment
<mark>State</mark>E-pub ahead of print
Early online date29/07/17
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Growth in e-commerce has led to increasing use of light goods vehicles for parcel deliveries in urban areas. This paper provides an insight into the reasons behind this growth and the resulting effort required to meet the exacting delivery services offered by e-retailers which often lead to poor vehicle utilisation in the last-mile operation, as well as the duplication of delivery services in urban centres as competitors vie for business. A case study investigating current parcel delivery operations in central London identified the scale of the challenge facing the last-mile parcel delivery driver, highlighting the importance of walking which can account for 62% of the total vehicle round time and 40% of the total round distance in the operations studied. The characteristics of these operations are in direct conflict with the urban infrastructure which is being increasingly redesigned in favour of walking, cycling and public transport, reducing the kerbside accessibility for last-mile operations. The paper highlights other pressures on last-mile operators associated with managing seasonal peaks in demand; reduced lead times between customers placing orders and deliveries being made; meeting delivery time windows; first-time delivery failure rates and the need to manage high levels of product returns. It concludes by describing a range of initiatives that retailers and parcel carriers, sometimes in conjunction with city authorities, can implement to reduce the costs associated with last-mile delivery, without negatively impacting on customer service levels.

Bibliographic note

This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, ??, ?, 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.trd.2017.07.020