Freight distribution around the UK is usually split into Long Haul, Regional and Urban Distribution. It is in the latter category that we have seen the emergence of a sub sector: the last mile, with light commercial vehicles (LCVs) used as the main delivery method.
The real standout for the sector is the fragmentation of the market, e.g. it is estimated that there are over 10,000 UK registered parcel companies, half of which are SMEs, most likely single vehicle operators.
The reasons for the growth have been discussed widely here and elsewhere. What is less discussed are the challenges posed. Customers are increasingly demanding a just-in-time service, especially around peak periods, whilst rising land values are leading to a scarcity of logistics infrastructure, the loss of kerbside space and increasing congestion.
There needs to be better recognition of the importance of the logistics industry by local authority planners to improve efficiency in the sector. It’s critical for policy makers to understand that freight has an origin, so any debate on the first mile is of equal importance to the last mile.
However, as with so much of our lives today the solution will be with technology. The use of micro consolidation hubs, small electric vehicles and advanced package traceability could all allow delivery direct to a person rather than a place, vastly enhancing end users’ experience.