Urban Logistics

The various changes in consumer habits and the increase in e-commerce have had a direct impact on the last mile. This means that traditional mobility models have had to be rethought, undergoing a transformation like never before, affecting a multitude of actors and the redesign of cities and infrastructures that facilitate the development of operations.

Just by standing in any newly developed residential area in any of Spain’s major cities, you can see a whole display of delivery vehicles of all kinds: from trucks to vans, vans, motorbikes, bicycles, both labelled and unlabelled. They come from traditional couriers and start-up companies that happen to be delivering and collecting parcels in the same neighbourhoods at the same time.

This is the most visible point of what we call Urban Goods Distribution, but it actually encompasses a multitude of upstream processes that are included in the order-to-delivery-to-invoice cycle that make up the value chain, encompassing a multitude of actions in addition to delivery or loading and unloading.  

Technological innovation must be available to all actors involved to achieve the common goal of improving the service and reducing its impact on mobility.

  • Stakeholders involved.
  • Logistop’s lines of action in the field of urban freight distribution:
    • Redesign of cities.
    • Infrastructures and Enabling Technologies.
    • New Delivery Systems / Processes.
    • Low Emission Vehicles.

Stakeholders involved

Public Administration

Regulator and developer of the different applicable regulations. It mediates between the different parties involved in the urban distribution of goods, which usually have conflicting interests. At present, we are faced with the problem of the lack of knowledge of urban distribution of goods, as well as the lack of reliable data on the behaviour of activities (mobility) within their cities.

Technology providers

the digitisation of processesin the last mile plays a key role in improving operations, having a direct positive impact on all actors involved. It is necessary to have real data, process it and transform it into information that can help decision-making and thus make mobility in city centres more efficient, an environment in which public space is increasingly scarce and urban distribution of goods is demanding.  

Agents providing urban goods distribution services

companies that provide a public service, but which must carry it out with the necessary economic viability. This includes the shipper, the logistics operator and all the agents involved until the final delivery of the goods. The distribution channel and the characteristics of the goods have a great weight in the development of the activity (type of vehicles, timetables, operation times, etc.).


we understand as a receiver the points of consumption, whether they are private homes (B2C) or public establishments (B2B). It is necessary to clearly differentiate what actions to apply to each of them, as they are completely different channels in terms of their management, even internally in the last mile operators themselves.

It is worth highlighting the impact of the B2C sector on the e-commerce channel due to the impact it is having on mobility as a result of the growth this channel is experiencing. In addition, we are faced with a channel that generates a high volume of reverse logistics, due to the irrationality of purchases, due to the identification of shipping as free, something that should be eliminated from the equation since transport may be included in the price, but it always has an environmental and economic cost attached to it.

Redesigning cities. Introducing logistics into urban planning

The redesign of cities aims to reinforce the need to take into account the logistics component in urban planning, the programming of a new building (office, shopping centre, residential, etc.) or a new neighbourhood.  

These developments will generate flows both for their supply and, for example, for their waste management. These flows must be considered from the planning conception phase in order to minimise their impact on the public space and thus guarantee optimal functioning after their implementation.  

The Public Administration must also integrate the design of loading and unloading zones in its territory through the definition of a Master Plan for Loading and Unloading Zones.  

This requires a necessary change in the regulatory framework and urban planning instruments.

Infrastructures and enabling technologies

In order to provide urban logistics stakeholders with the means to develop sustainable (economic/environmental) distribution models, it is necessary:

Implement networks of urban logistics spaces based on public-private partnerships to respond to challenges such as:
  • Increasing e-commerce volumes, decreasing average package size, shorter delivery times, etc.
  • Necessary restrictions on access to urban centres for the most polluting vehicles (notably LEZs).
  • Price and the lack of availability of square metres for logistics use in urban environments.
  • Business structure based on the weakest link: the self-employed.

It is essential to develop networks of collaborative urban logistics spaces allowing for consolidated deliveries and low or “zero” emission vehicles. It is well known that these models, already experimented in Europe and the rest of the world, are weak in economic terms.

New models must be developed for these hubs, based on new technologies (see Logistop’s Digital Transformation Working Group), proposing new types of value-added services (convenience points, smart ticket offices, deported storage for HORECA, order preparation, reverse logistics, etc.) and supported at all times by the Public Administration (through financial aid, provision of underused public spaces or through positive discrimination against access restrictions or associated means of control).

Integrating urban logistics spaces into the existing real estate market

More than ever, urban goods distribution service providers are looking for spaces located in the urban environment or in its immediate periphery (spaces of up to several hundred square metres), where square metres are scarce and difficult to find. On the other hand, owners and developers are looking for rentable space, located for example in commercial or community premises or parking spaces where it is possible (under certain conditions) to implement a permanent or ephemeral logistics activity.  

With the rise of teleworking and increasing restrictions on access to urban centres for vehicles, this phenomenon is particularly visible in car parks that are starting to become empty (public car parks or office and shopping centre car parks, for example).  

Thus, the scope of this action is to take advantage of these opportunities to support the creation of such spaces in the existing real estate network and to create synergies between service providers and real estate entities.

Accelerating the digitisation of loading and unloading areas

In addition to action to improve the sharing of public space, it is essential to optimise access to and availability of loading and unloading areas for distribution activities. Indeed, in addition to considering whether their number is sufficient or whether their location is optimal, there remains a major challenge today to reduce the illegal occupation of these spaces.    

Thus, the digitisation of loading and unloading zones (by implementing, for example, Bluetooth devices and/or sensors for zones located in sectors with high pressure/density, associated with an application used by professionals and control agents in particular) makes it possible to meet these challenges and should be accelerated by municipalities, starting, for example, with a pilot test in a limited perimeter.

It is also worth mentioning that this digitisation allows the generation of data on the vehicle fleet circulating within the municipality. When implementing restrictions such as ZBEs in urban environments, such data can be particularly useful to measure the effects of such measures.  

Facilitating the shared use of public space

The shared use of public space aims to reduce the compartmentalisation of public space that generates congestion and conflicts and to bring agility in the use of the road between freight transport and other modes of urban mobility.  

This includes encouraging and experimenting with time-sharing (according to time slots) and/or space-sharing, notably in lanes (e.g. bus lanes) and parking areas.  

New delivery systems / processes

Promote “silent” deliveries and deliveries at deferred times

For some bulky, bulky and/or heavy mass deliveries, there is no other option but to make them with a large-gauge vehicle. To facilitate these deliveries, to limit their impact in terms of pollution, noise and also visually, as well as to reduce congestion at peak hours, an important lever is to encourage deliveries with low-emission vehicles (see Logistop’s “Decarbonisation” Working Group), but also at deferred times (basically in the evening or very early in the morning).

This requires an adaptation of the chain for both the Urban Goods Distribution service providers and the receiving establishment (e.g. HORECA) and also an adaptation of the equipment to use “silent” vehicles and handling elements.


Low-emission vehicles

Promote the use of low-emission vehicles and alternative modes (bicycles, cargo bikes, motorbikes, scooters or on foot).

For each innovative project developed, the opportunity and feasibility of carrying out distribution and final delivery operations with sustainable transport modes has to be studied (see Logistop’s “Decarbonisation” Working Group).

The urban logistics spaces to be implemented introduce an additional load break in the supply chain that allows the use of low-emission vehicles and/or alternative modes to perform the last link (last mile or last yard).

Daniel Latorre and Antoine Radal, leaders of Logistop's Urban Logistics Working Group.