Facing loading and unloading inefficiencies. Navigating narrow, congested city streets. Confronting routing dilemmas. Determining curb availability. These are just a handful of problems last-mile delivery drivers deal with daily. And let’s face it: Two-day delivery isn’t going anywhere; if anything, it’ll only get faster (same-day delivery, anyone?).
The question is — how will drivers be able to keep up if they are continuously faced with hurdles as basic as figuring out where they can safely park without walking back to a ticket?
BrightDrop Minimizes Curbside Occupation
Just driving around your neighborhood, you likely often see delivery trucks double-parked, idling and blocking bike lanes, and couriers carrying heavy loads while making multiple trips to and from the vehicle to deliver a package.
Not only does this put a strain on the driver, but it also means their vehicle has to remain in one spot for an extended period, potentially hindering traffic.
BrightDrop is looking to solve this dilemma with its EP1— an electric delivery cart developed to transport goods over short distances (i.e., from the delivery vehicle to the customer’s front door). Equipped with propulsion assistance that allows couriers to move heavier loads, it’s designed to reduce the number of trips, and help reduce package touchpoints, operational costs, and physical strain on the labor force.
In its first pilot, FedEx Express couriers were able to safely and effectively handle 25% more packages per day with EP1s, according to BrightDrop. FedEx Express couriers also shared feedback that the EP1s were easy to maneuver and reduced physical strain.
Additionally, the EV410, the company’s mid-size van, is designed to electrify smaller payload deliveries and services and expand zero-emissions driving to various applications — from online grocery delivery to telecom maintenance.
With a smaller wheelbase of just over 150-in., the EV410 allows for better curb management and maneuverability, particularly in highly populated urban areas. It also has a shorter length of under 20-ft., providing the ability to fit into a standard-size parking space — a key feature helping reduce street congestion in cities.
“Demand for global e-commerce is soaring. Not only are we ordering more online, but we also want our deliveries to arrive faster than ever. This growth is not only leading to a multitude of challenges delivery companies are facing to keep pace with the demand, but also dramatic increases in greenhouse gas emissions and congestion on our streets,” Steve Hornyak, chief revenue officer of BrightDrop, said.
Pebble Manages Curb Space
New modes of transportation such as micromobility and ride-hailing are continuously taking up curb space. A recent addition to this dilemma is outdoor dining spaces and dedicated curbside pickup, thanks to COVID-19. These developments are joining truck deliveries in the fight for curb space, meaning many last-mile delivery vehicles either don’t have a place to safely and legally load, or their drivers don’t know where that space is or choose not to use the available space, according to Doneliza Joaquin, program manager at Pebble (Coord was acquired by Sidewalk Labs’ Pebble).
“This often results in double-parking, and sometimes in the blocking of crosswalks, ADA ramps, or bike and bus lanes. When drivers lack tools and incentives that efficiently match them with a sufficient supply of available curb space, deliveries can negatively impact communities’ mobility, safety, and public health,” she said.
As demand for deliveries in cities is expected to grow, so, too, is the cost to delivery fleets, including:
- Time spent looking for a loading spot (a report by the University of Washington found a driver spends 28% of their time looking for parking, on average about 70 minutes a day)
- Gas spent idling in traffic
- Tickets for double-parking when loading spaces aren’t available.
The challenge that comes with what Pebble deems “curb management” becomes balancing people-first streets with the need for vehicular access for drop-offs.
Two products the company has developed to fix this are:
- Smart Zones: Partner with municipalities and fleet operators to map the urban parking environment and existing rules sets, analyze usage options to optimize access and revenue, and create reservable loading zones with its Smart Zone system. This improves decision-making for users and managers, adapts to changing conditions and models, and uses demand-responsive pricing to improve revenue generation and utilization.
- Inventory Management: Provides a quick, accurate way to collect parking regulations in an accessible data format, with reports that help cities see opportunities for changes to on-street signage and regulations.
Smart Zones are spaces along the curb that cities can digitally manage and operate. Using the Pebble platform, a city can flexibly designate who may use the space, when, for how long, and at what price. Drivers use a mobile app to see the real-time availability of Smart Zones.
The Driver app allows users to route and reserve a zone, and to book and pay for space in them. The same capabilities are available to users of fleet driver apps that have integrated with its API. This allows drivers to spend less time circling in traffic and looking for loading space.
Technology like Smart Zones also helps cities use data collected to identify areas in need of more loading space based on booking data and feedback from fleets and drivers.
ParkMyFleet Foresees More Efficient Routing, Vehicle Prep
Better, more efficient routing, package pick up, and vehicle maintenance practices are yet another part of the equation that will help improve parking issues, according to Michele Pierog, CSO of ParkMyFleet.
Much of this lies in how last-mile delivery trucks are prepared with systematic accessibility to their deliverables in relation to a curated route. Shortly, we’ll likely see the transfer of products through smart docks that can sort and separate products according to route and prepare last-mile delivery trucks more intelligently, ensuring less time spent at each stop on the delivery path.
“The shortage of trucks and drivers, as well as the increase in demand and expediency, has created a system with no margin for error,” she stated. “Increased pressure on drivers creates a stressful environment in situations with variables including traffic, weather, and access to the drop point. Preparing and creating efficiencies for the driver and route during downtime will result in a more efficient uptime. Using data to understand daily routes, traffic flow, and challenges at drop locations will enable a more successful route as well.”
On top of this, eMobility hubs will emerge to provide a secured location for the safe transfer of products and drivers, along with fleet services including fueling and charging to increase uptime and reduce TCO.
“Providing a location for the last-mile delivery truck and drivers to safely and securely access services and be prepared for the delivery cycle optimizes workflow,” she said.
The upkeep and servicing of last-mile delivery vehicles is also imperative to create efficiencies so they aren’t sitting permanently parked in a depot waiting to be fixed.
PayByPhone Works With Cities to Solve Parking Problems
It’s no secret parking availability is being swallowed up and cities are undoubtedly looking for solutions to manage pick-up-drop-off (PUDO) zones better, fast. Adam Kriegel, VP, Enterprise Sales - North America for PayByPhone, says that’s where his company comes in.
PayByPhone enables drivers to pay for parking in different cities via mobile app, preventing the need for stopping at a pay station in person.
“Drivers might be asking themselves, ‘Am I allowed to park here? Do I need to pay for parking? Is there a permit needed? If so, what does that permit get me? What does it cost?’ We want them to be able to see what’s open and what their options are,” he explained.
Keeping up with individual city rules is also a big challenge. Many times, a driver will just take their chances double parking or even block a fire hydrant rather than look for a legitimate parking space.
“The chances of getting caught have been historically low, and that’s what the cities are focused on changing right now,” he said.
Whatever the solution, Kriegel noted the rules won’t be the same in every city.
“There’s going to be a difference in both the goals each city has and then the measures they take to achieve them.”
While many last-mile drivers might not see a need to pay for parking currently, they better be prepared to soon. Last-mile companies should be developing relationships with parking authorities or departments of transportation in preparation for potential changes.
On top of this, using an app to pay for parking helps to eliminate the dangers of stopping somewhere to pay a fee. The driver can remain in their locked vehicle, preventing the possible left of their packages.
“Whether it’s a rainy, icy day and other vehicles are flying by, or whether you’re just warry of being mugged, this way drivers don’t have to stand out in the elements or where they have their wallet out for all to see,” he said.
Truck Park Wants Drivers to Stay Safe and Informed
Anthony Petitte, CEO of TruckPark, says one challenge is drivers not being able to find safe parking, especially between the hours of 3:00 PM and midnight. Apps like TruckPark, SecurSpace, and Truck Parking Reservations are available to help drivers determine where truck parking facilities are located, how much they cost, and if they are available or not.
“Cargo insurance and payloads are not inexpensive, and if theft occurs, it can be very expensive. This has ignited some of the nuclear verdicts of fleets shutting down in 2020 due to carriers not covering the cost of insurance claims from legalities. Fleet managers should be aware of the education of truck parking and how necessary it is to run a safe trucking operation,” he said.
Making use of technology to pay for and find the nearest secure truck parking facility to the driver’s load/unload locations is one way to avoid safety issues. In turn, this helps fleet owners retain drivers and decrease turnover.
“People always talk about driver shortages, but if you respect and take care of your drivers, you will find more of them will stick around.”
Interestingly enough, fleets historically are spending much more money when not paying for parking, according to Petitte.
“The average driver spends 30 to 45 minutes searching for parking at night — hidden expenses such as fuel and maintenance become much more costly than already having a guaranteed spot booked,” he stated.