Last Mile Deliveries: Overcoming the Parking Problem
A game of small margins
Being a delivery driver is a hectic job at the best of times. Tight delivery windows and busy traffic come together to create a frenetic mix. That is, however, just the predictable part. It is the unexpected disruptions, such as road closures, which are often the most costly. In an industry defined by tight margins, those that can successfully manage disruptions will thrive. Our cities will become less clogged up, too.
Tight windows and tight customers
With the growth of e-commerce, the volume of deliveries in the last mile is growing dramatically, presenting both a boon and a challenge for logistic firms. E-Commerce is estimated to grow by 265% between 2014 and 2021, from $1.3 trillion to $4.9 trillion. To put this into perspective, in 2018 more than half of internet users in the US bought clothing online at least once.
And if you think that they are willing to pay over the odds for this convenience, think again. Consumers are tight-fisted when it comes to paying for deliveries and retailers end up carrying around 25 percent of delivery costs. The delivery business is, therefore, extremely price sensitive and the margins are tight.
The last mile madness
The last mile is the trickiest and slowest part of the delivery process, and can account for as much as 41 percent of supply chain costs. It is therefore imperative to execute the process as smoothly as possible. Route optimization software and other planning tools help to better manage a driver’s delivery pattern. Some of these focus on shortening delivery routes, while others seek to maximize a fleet’s loading potential. An area often overlooked is that of on-street parking and the loading and unloading of goods.
“You might be able to avoid a busy street on the way to make a delivery, but you can’t change the delivery address.”
Loading and unloading is a scrappy affair. In tight, congested cities the flock of delivery trucks combined with already mounting traffic can create serious headaches for other road users and the delivery drivers themselves. Vehicles can be rerouted to avoid busy streets at rush hour, for instance, but predicting the curbside situation is somewhat more complex. You might be able to avoid a busy street on the way to make a delivery, but you can’t change the delivery address.
With few dedicated loading zones available, drivers are forced to park a number of blocks away, turning what should be a ten minute delivery into something more like 30–45 minutes. This is not only a waste of time, it is a waste of energy, too. Instead of circling around the block (or the next one) many drivers double park or end up parking on bike lanes and sidewalks. Something that not only exacerbates congestion and pollution problems, but can also be costly. Drivers often face fines. In New York where the situation is particularly acute, carriers typically pay between $500 and $1,000 per truck per month in parking fines. Sometimes these rules are clear but often they are not.
This graphic shows how double-parked delivery trucks cause major backups with moving vehicles in green, slowed vehicles in orange, stopped vehicles in red and parked vehicles in grey. Source:https://www.wsj.com/articles/in-cities-across-america-the-fight-for-curb-space-heats-up-during-the-holidays-11576238403
At Ubiq the rerouting will be live
From April through November, Chicago’s 49th Ward is plastered with bright orange parking restriction signs for street cleaning. Put up the day before street sweeping is scheduled to begin, those who fail to move their vehicles between the restricted hours of 9.00am and 2.00pm, are eligible to receive a $60 ticket. Car drivers get around this by either parking on a different street or, as they often do, double parking. This poses a major problem for delivery drivers who, unlike cars, are often bulkier and unable to weave in and out of double parked cars. This then clogs up delivery routes and the drivers often find themselves stuck or in need of redirection.
At Ubiq, we help drivers circumvent such disruptions by providing them with real-time intelligence, allowing them to avoid them in the first place. Our advanced data set covering global parking rules and restrictions, and parkable space allows us to determine where loading space is permitted, alerts drivers to potential parking rule violations and provides rerouting for disruptions caused by road closures. All this according to the time of day and vehicle type (see example of Downtown Manhattan below). This makes previously unpredictable disruptions, like street cleaning, a whole lot more predictable.
Example of Ubiq's delivery parking service layer which provides intelligence on the curbside rules for different commercial vehicles types. Check out a sample data set for Downtown Manhattan here.
Better city planning and more loading spaces are undoubtedly required. Until the city governments catch up, however, delivery operators will have to navigate the wild west on their own. Although they cannot control the disruptions to delivery routes, they can make it more predictable. In doing so they can give their drivers (or AVs) the best guidance on loading and unloading vehicles, reducing both the time spent looking for a parking space and the money frittered away on parking fines. Disruptions can be costly. They don’t have to be.
At Ubiq we provide digital information on commercial delivery curbside rules via an API, integrated to the vehicle’s routing software. We have the world’s largest dataset on delivery logistics loading zones, covering 70+ major cities.