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An Analytical Model for Vehicle Miles Traveled and Carbon Emissions for Goods Delivery Scenarios

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Publication: European Transport Research Review
Volume: 10
Publication Date: 2018

This paper presents an analytical model to contrast the carbon emissions from a number of goods delivery methods. This includes individuals travelling to the store by car, and delivery trucks delivering to homes. While the impact of growing home delivery services has been studied with combinatorial approaches, those approaches do not allow for systematic conclusions regarding when the service provides net benefit. The use of the analytical approach presented here, allows for more systematic relationships to be established between problem parameters, and therefore broader conclusions regarding when delivery services may provide a CO2 benefit over personal travel.


Analytical mathematical models are developed to approximate total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and carbon emissions for a personal vehicle travel scenario, a local depot vehicle travel scenario, and a regional warehouse travel scenario. A graphical heuristic is developed to compare the carbon emissions of a personal vehicle travel scenario and local depot delivery scenario.


The analytical approach developed and presented in the paper demonstrates that two key variables drive whether a delivery service or personal travel will provide a lower CO2 solution. These are the emissions ratio, and customer density. The emissions ratio represents the relative emissions impact of the delivery vehicle when compared to the personal vehicle. The results show that with a small number of customers, and low emissions ratio, personal travel is preferred. In contrast, with a high number of customers and low emissions ratio, delivery service is preferred.


While other research into the impact of delivery services on CO2 emissions has generally used a combinatorial approach, this paper considers the problem using an analytical model. A detailed simulation can provide locational specificity, but provides less insight into the fundamental drivers of system behavior. The analytical approach exposes the problem’s basic relationships that are independent of local geography and infrastructure. The result is a simple method for identifying context when personal travel, or delivery service, is more CO2 efficient.

Authors: Dr. Anne Goodchild, Erica Wygonik, Nathan Mayes
Recommended Citation:
Goodchild, Anne, Erica Wygonik, and Nathan Mayes. "An analytical model for vehicle miles traveled and carbon emissions for goods delivery scenarios." European Transport Research Review 10, no. 1 (2018): 8.