E-commerce is on the rise in France, having exceeded 129 billion euros in 2021, an increase of 15.1%, up from 8.5% in 2020. Urban planners in France have begun to take into account daily logistics transport needs. What has the experience been for logistics providers and their employees making deliveries in Paris? It is important to understand their daily problems so as to advance urban logistics.

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The main charter of regulations for goods transport and delivery was signed in 2006 and updated in 2013. This project charter involved 80 partners in working groups related to air quality, logistics equipment and innovation. It is meant to optimise the entry and distribution of goods in Paris, and to  control problems arising from urban logistics transport, such as air and noise pollution, or traffic congestion. Heleen Buldeo Rai, the Logistics City chair of University Gustave Eiffel, was one of the panellists in a conversation organised by Autonomy Paris on “On-demand Logistics: Managing the Explosion.” She mentioned that new developments in urban logistics include the rise of pedestrian drives, where consumers can pick up or send their packages via designated delivery points. In addition, the number of grocery shopping applications has increased.

 

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Challenges faced by urban logistics providers

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A big problem is the limited number of parking spaces in Paris. Although this number has increased from 7,984 to 10,600 with the creation of 1,000 additional delivery spaces in 2022, it remains insufficient due to the radical increase in e-commerce and demand for urban logistics.

Another problem that has arisen from the collection and delivery points, or the pedestrian drives, is that it is difficult for urban logistics providers to manage a diverse set of distribution actors in a large city. There is great complexity for the daily operations of the CDP provider and consumer-provider interaction. Mistrust of small shops raises doubts in consumers’ minds, especially when some shops have irregular opening hours and do not update them online.

Good practices or possible solutions to manage urban logistics

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Importantly, Paris has been an experimental site for urban logistics. For example, a private sector player, Stuart, tried out a mobile warehouse in the form of a truck in the 15th

arrondissement. For this six-month experiment, a parking space on Place de Brazzaville will be privatised until May 2022. This truck supplies delivery drivers equipped with three-wheelers with trailers containing parcels that have been prepared upstream in a warehouse located in Bercy. By testing new organisational forms for parcel distribution, the total number of vehicles on the road could be reduced.

A second innovation is to better manage the use of the delivery spaces in Paris. The City of Paris conducted an experiment to modernise the control and use of delivery areas through technologies to identify free delivery parking spaces in real time, to help delivery drivers find available spaces. In the second half of 2021, several technologies were tested to allow users to view available delivery areas in real time on their smartphones, but there have been no announcements yet.

Thirdly, collection and delivery points providers have built their distribution networks via partnerships with supermarket chains. This meets the need of consumers to have the points located near their homes, and also ensures more standardised management of the distribution network. This leads to increased consumer trust as the majority of supermarket chains are well-known brands, such as Carrefour passenger drives.

Finally, there is increasing investment in urban distribution centres. The pan-European logistics firm Valor Real Estate Partners, for example, has invested over €20 million in 2021 to develop an urban distribution hub in Paris. To this end, Valor has acquired a 2-hectare brownfield site in La Courneuve for speculative development of a 10,166sqm urban distribution park. Goods from the urban logistics centres to consumers or other businesses would then be provided by electrical vehicles or alternatively powered vehicles. The urban logistics centre facility is also envisioned to include filling stations for alternative fuels and recharging stations for electric vehicles.

Parcel for Thought?

Urban logistics stakeholders have to continually innovate and test new solutions for logistics, distribution, and removal of goods. These solutions can then be offered transporters who wish to change their usual practices so as to better respond to major urban issues: goods mobility, air quality, noise, congestion of public space. Only then will the limitations imposed by the current infrastructure be overcome to meet the needs for on-demand logistics.