Your next online order could arrive at your doorstep with help from a new “warehouse on wheels” – currently being trialled in London – that has the potential to help cut traffic, reduce emissions, and improve delivery times.
From groceries to fashion, the growth in online shopping across Europe means the number of parcel deliveries is expected to double in the next ten years. Most of these deliveries are fulfilled by vans, leading to escalating congestion in many cities with average journey times in London having risen by more than 40% in just three years. As a result, carriers are under increasing pressure to deliver more parcels, more quickly, with less cost, while continuing to ensure employee welfare and environmental responsibility.
Now, a new digital delivery service being trialled by Ford in partnership with Gnewt by Menzies Distribution will efficiently coordinate multiple modes of transport including pedestrian and – one day – bicycle couriers.
During the trial, Gnewt’s last‑mile delivery service will be driven by Ford’s intelligent cloud‑based, multi‑modal routing and logistics software MoDe:Link, that manages all aspects of parcel delivery from depot to doorstep. This could help couriers, fleet managers, logistics and food delivery companies optimise processes and increase van utilisation, saving time and money while boosting capacity.
The service could also improve customer experience by offering improved delivery windows and reducing costs, speeding time from order to delivery by enabling vans to make more frequent round trips back to the depot. In addition, it could contribute to healthier streets and reduced traffic in major cities, cutting congestion around valuable kerb space where vans typically load and unload.
“Our goal is to keep larger vehicles like delivery vans operating in the high‑load, less‑congested environments in which they perform best,” said Tom Thompson, project lead, Ford Mobility. “However, for the last mile of a journey into an urban area, where congestion and lack of parking can be a challenge, it makes sense to offload deliveries to more nimble, efficient and cost‑effective modes of transport.”
The “warehouse on wheels” concept is designed to be compatible both with Ford vans and those of other manufacturers. These vans then act as dynamic delivery hubs that collect orders from a depot and then briefly stop at strategic locations determined to be the most efficient for each batch of orders. Ford’s proprietary software platform coordinates with nearby foot couriers – or potentially with bicycle couriers, drones and autonomous robots in the future – to fulfil the last leg of each delivery.
“We want to change the way we think about moving goods around our cities,” said Sam Clarke, founder and head of business development, Gnewt. “We are keen to understand how multi‑modal deliveries can benefit our business, our customers, and – by promoting active travel and the associated health and environmental benefits of walking and cycling – our employees too. We are delighted to be working with Ford and helping to trial its revolutionary new software solution.”
Delivering the last mile The UK Government has also recognised the need to develop smarter delivery solutions for urban areas, launching an open consultation to further explore last‑mile deliveries and the opportunities available to deliver goods more sustainably. The call for evidence, to which Ford has responded, seeks to examine the environmental benefits of micro‑vehicles, e‑cargo bikes, and measures to improve logistical efficiency.
“Freight and deliveries are central to supporting London’s economy, with half of the value of the capital’s household expenditure relying on it,” said Michael Hurwitz, director of transport innovation, Transport for London. “However, congestion and poor air quality are some of the biggest challenges the city faces. More last‑mile deliveries made in this way, alongside the growth of micro‑consolidation centres, are essential to tackle the pollution problem and keeping