To address the accessibility and sustainability challenges of urban logistics it is important to consider urban logistics from a number of perspectives.
This includes considering:
- spatial context i.e. not focusing solely on the urban center or core but also in terms of actions taken in broader logistics and supply chain management.
- stakeholders i.e. including all key decision makers and constituents.
- complexity and heterogeneity of activities (range of vehicles used, the products carried, location of distribution centers, and the variety found in city size, form, and governance).
This diversity of perspectives, and their influence on the urban freight system, makes it challenging to identify simple solutions to problems.
A number of forces are also at work impacting change in the urban logistics system. Technological innovation affecting urban logistics includes digitalization, e.g. the Internet of Things (important in terms of connected objects) and big data. These developments are already established and beginning to have an impact or at least implications in the field of urban logistics and freight transport. However, problems will not be solved by technology alone and it is essential to understand how behavior (at the individual and corporate level) influences outcomes and needs to change. Research needs to address interactions between stakeholders and the role of city authorities in promoting innovation and change.
Cities are complex environments and urban logistics has to adapt to these demands. The complexity of cities also gives rise to a debate about the extent to which problems (and their possible solutions) may be considered context-specific. This leads to questions relating to how initiatives should be scaled up to gain greater traction in dealing with challenges now and in the future. It is important to learn as much as possible from the high number of projects and new services that have been implemented in cities over the past ten years. These range from initiatives related to electric vehicles, through locker box systems and the role of the receiver in making change happen. How to learn and then apply the lessons from projects is an important question. In many cases it has been argued that the underlying business model has not been addressed successfully leading to the problem of projects lasting only as long as some form of project funding is available.
Michael Browne, Anne Goodchild. Urban Logistics: From Research to Implementation, Research in Transportation Business & Management, Volume 45 (A) 2022, 100913, ISSN 2210-5395, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rtbm.2022.100913.