Most of the world’s cities are facing, to differing degrees, the following contradiction: on the one hand they have to revitalize their urban centers and stimulate the fabric of shops, restaurants and small businesses by guaranteeing the continuous passage of commercial goods; on the other hand they also have to meet the growing demands of the urbanites for less pollution, less noise, fewer traffic jams and therefore fewer delivery vehicles at least in their traditional form (gasoline or diesel trucks and vans). This complex question of the last mile is in fact a triple challenge:
An ecological challenge
According to the Center for Strategic Analysis freight transport produces almost 10 % of the global carbon dioxide emissions. And it continues to increase to the point where it could triple by 2050. In the supply chain, the last mile, usually in a densely built-up urban environment, often congested and heavily polluted, is more exposed to the scrutiny and criticism of the public.
A political challenge
The more "soft" modes of transport (tramways, bus rapid transit and bicycles) are developed, the more urbanites become intolerant to the nuisances of the automobile and the more the space for delivery vehicles is squeezed. The last mile is both a logistics issue and the subject of complaint from neighboring populations and is increasingly an issue in local elections.
An economic challenge
As much as an urbanite can legitimately complain about the inconvenience caused by a double parked delivery truck, the consumer will be just as displeased at not finding his favorite products in the shop, or receiving his ordered goods with a delay. Local authorities and operators must ensure efficient and seamless deliveries, while keeping to a minimum the ensuing pollution and nuisances. The challenge is all the greater since the number of home deliveries is exploding. Redoubling the requirements to deliver rapidly, during a limited time slot, has a competitive cost.
To resolve this equation with several unknowns, the local authorities and companies, transport and logistics companies are deploying new solutions and in some cases they are very innovative. At the same time there is a growing number of think tanks (in France, for example, the last mile delivery club was founded in 2011) and major programs at a national or international level: Freilot projects, Euro Carex, Best Urban Freight Solutions or CityLog in Europe, National Transportation Innovation and Research Program (PREDIT) in France, Green Freight Initiatives financed by the World Bank...