December 5, 2023

Transport – The challenges of the last mile

challenges of the last mile

When it comes to technological evolution, specialists in the transportation field don't just have to worry about electrification, the availability of new vehicles or labor shortages. They also need to consider efficient travel management, particularly in dense urban environments. A crucial aspect of delivery logistics, "last mile" management encompasses all aspects of the final phase of goods delivery to end customers.

A number of last-mile management challenges are commonplace in the monitoring carried out by the Phar team on behalf of its customers in the transport sector. By minimizing distances travelled and optimizing routes, companies seek to save fuel, reduce CO2 emissions and cut delivery-related expenses.


Security and autonomous vehicules

While the issue of safety during the movement of autonomous systems is not new, whether they are used to transport people or goods, many people have recently been asking what measures can be put in place to facilitate and secure the loading and unloading of goods, an essential stage in the management of the "last mile". A recent article in Transport Topics highlighted the major safety limitations[1] of autonomous trucks, pointing out that they are not as advanced as passenger cars equipped with similar technologies.

Groups such as the Association for Supply Chain Management[2] regularly produce a status report for their members on this subject, tracking the various large-scale deployments and pilot programs.    


Home delivery and the cold chain

Many online retailers and food specialists are also keeping a close eye on the latest advances in last-mile "refrigerated transport". As refrigerated transport accounts for almost 40% of transport costs in the perishable goods sector[3], cost reductions are necessary before we can think about the widespread use of this type of transport for individual orders.

A number of analysts in the field are convinced that technological platforms will deliver sufficient savings[4] to ensure wider use of this approach. These savings are obviously eagerly awaited by the food and pharmaceutical industries, which already employ trucks equipped with multi-temperature boxes. The medical sector is even using drones for deliveries, again with temperature-adapted systems.  In addition, images of Amazon's "Prime Air" drone were released last October, of a delivery network that continues to expand in the United States and Europe. 

For the time being, technology is already playing a key role in optimizing the last mile in the context of cold chain management. Thanks to fleet management systems and route planning software, companies can optimize their deliveries in real time. These tools take into account traffic conditions, delivery constraints and customer preferences to find the most efficient routes, especially if deliveries include perishable goods.

Last but not least, technology also makes it possible to improve communication with both drivers and customers. GPS tracking systems allow delivery vehicles to be tracked in real time, enabling companies to provide accurate updates on delivery schedules to customers, reducing their waiting time and enhancing their shopping experience.


Towards a more moderate carbon footprint

At a time when many metropolises around the world are reviewing access to their city centers, transport companies are looking at their carbon footprint, seeking to measure it so that they can finally reduce it.

Approaches such as the creation of "Urban Consolidation Centers"[5], buildings which optimize deliveries for several operators in the field, or the densification of deliveries are currently being tested[6] in several companies in charge of last-mile transport. In addition, by using appropriate packaging, companies are working to maximize the use of space in delivery vehicles. This optimizes loads and reduces the number of journeys required.

At the same time, the comprehensive assessment of this carbon footprint is the hot topic of the moment, taking pride of place at conferences in the field[7].  From this perspective, a start-up like MileBox, with its electric cargo bike, is well placed to respond to this trend.    

Finally, we shouldn't forget that it's the end-consumer who will choose to give preference to companies in the sector that make greater efforts in this area[8].


If you'd like to keep abreast of the latest developments in transport and last-mile management, don't hesitate to get in touch with us!

[1] 7 Roadblocks to the Widespread Adoption of Autonomous Trucking

[2] Exciting Last-Mile Advances with Drones, EVs and ADVs

[3] Lowering Last Mile Costs

[4] The role of integration software in last-mile logistics

[5] UPS pursues greater delivery density to reduce emissions.

[6] Advancing City Logistics and Sustainability with Urban Consolidation Centers


[8] Winning the battle for values-driven customers: three steps for reducing emissions in the last mile