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The University of Southampton

Research project: Freight Traffic Control 2050 (transforming the energy demands of last-mile urban freight through collaborative logistics)

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Freight transport currently accounts for 16% of all road vehicle activity in our cities and affects us all through its significant contribution to traffic congestion and poor air quality and is predicted to increase due to online shopping and emergence of on-demand delivery services. This project aims to counteract such negative trends through gaining a better understanding of the collective impacts of carrier fleets on-street, and the potential benefits resulting from collaborative delivery vehicle scheduling, combining deliveries to use fewer vehicles.

Given the ever growing demand for products and services that generate freight activity in our cities, there is a need to fundamentally reinvestigate the efficiency of our current ‘customer-orientated’ last-mile logistics operations to reduce fossil fuel consumption, urban traffic levels and congestion. Our research vision is to examine the potential for closer operational collaboration between carriers to reduce urban traffic and energy demand whilst maintaining customer service levels, and evaluate to what extent such relationships can develop naturally within a commercial setting or whether a third party ‘Freight Traffic Controller’ (FTC) would be needed to ensure equitable distribution of demand across the network.

Our concept is to work directly with Transport for London and carriers that are open to the potential for collaborative operations (e.g. TNT and Gnewt Cargo) and, via privileged access to their historic and live collection and delivery schedules across London:

  • Develop understanding of how carrier delivery schedules are derived and to what extent they temporally and spatially overlap
  • Develop tools for data capture, integration and visualisation to enable individual carriers’ schedules to be amalgamated and interpreted
  • Develop metaheuristic algorithms to assess how existing routing and scheduling may be improved
  • Using the output from the metaheuristic algorithms along with cooperative game theory, develop business models for carrier co-ordination
  • In a trial comparing observed versus suggested behaviour, use the output from the business models to quantify and qualify the benefits of various sustainable operating strategies that could be adopted by carriers and the local authority to reduce freight energy demand (e.g. zonal delivery/collection points).

Of key importance in our work is working with our industrial and local authority collaborators to understand the key technical, legal and privacy issues associated with the receipt, processing and visualisation of collaborative schedules and identify trust models that allow carriers to collaborate with confidence to allow a fundamental reduction in energy demand through this change in behaviour. The new tools that we propose to develop will help freight policy makers understand how such collaborative models and a FTC concept could stimulate the uptake of collaboration and oversee the equitable use of vehicle fleets across a city.

To find out more information visit FTC 2050 website

Related research groups

Transportation Group
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