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Innovations in urban logistics

UPS delivery e-bike near the riverfront in Pittsburgh, Pa.

According to The Road to Sustainable Urban Logistics, UPS’s recent research study, nearly two-thirds of the global population will live in cities by 2050, and urban populations will increase by 2 billion people. More than half the businesses surveyed report they do not feel prepared to tackle the challenges that come with growing global urbanization. It’s clear that the time for conversation, cooperation and change is now.

In a press release about the survey, Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president, global engineering and sustainability, stated, “This research clearly highlights the complexity of logistics operations in urban environments. Increased urbanization and congestion make logistics far less predictable and harder to manage. Without implementing innovative solutions supported by technology and logistics ingenuity, we run the risk of increasing congestion and emissions – we need solutions, and collaboration is the key.”

The movement of goods is an essential function to support businesses and residents, and a fundamental source of economic growth in cities. Access to e-commerce is part of what makes alternative transportation modes and walkable urbanism a viable choice. At the same time, transportation and delivery can contribute to pollution and gridlock, and can be challenging for companies both large and small to manage sustainably. When asked how the rise in e-commerce, increased urbanization and congestion have affected how they conduct business in urban areas, 81 percent of survey respondents noted some form of impact on their business, such as the ability to meet e-commerce customer expectations (33 percent), make deliveries to retail locations (32 percent), and meet city requirement for emission levels (31 percent).

“No two cities are alike,” states Wallace. ”Yet we’ve found that there’s common ground. We’re able to take the knowledge we’re gathering as we work with cities across the globe and apply it to each new city that joins us in partnership to address this issue.”

UPS is taking significant real-world steps to address the environmental and traffic-congestion challenges of increased urbanization:

In Pittsburgh, Pa., UPS launched a three-wheeled, electrically assisted eBike as part of UPS’s Cycle Solutions and Rolling Laboratory program, which tests alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles. The success of the eBike was first demonstrated in 2012 in Hamburg, Germany; UPS placed containers at central locations around the city for interim package storage, where UPS drivers would collect them and make deliveries using eBikes, easing work-day traffic congestion and reducing emissions.
UPS Canada has started a pilot program using a custom-made cargo bike to make deliveries in and around York University in Toronto. The bike can hold up to 50 parcels, depending on the size and weight of the packages and is equipped with safety features like headlights, tail lights, turn signals, side markers and hazard lights – all powered by a solar panel on the roof. It even has a full windshield and windshield wiper to ensure maximum visibility.
A partnership among UPS, Unique Electric Solutions LLC and the New York State Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is working to develop new technology that will convert UPS package delivery vehicles from diesel to electric. This partnership could lead to the conversion of up to 1,500 UPS delivery trucks, which represents 66 percent of UPS’s NYC fleet.

Supporting sustainable cities

A growing number of UPS customers joined the effort to address the challenges posed by the growth of urban communities. Here are a few tips to help you focus on areas in which you can have the greatest impact:

  • Consider the possibilities: Think of city residents and business locations as partners. How can you work together to provide what they need in the most sustainable way possible? Methods such as supply chain optimization and consolidated deliveries, alternative delivery locations, and allowing the consumer to control delivery dates and times can create efficiencies that help reduce congestion and the environmental impact of wasted delivery stops.
  • Be data-driven: Viable data is one of the most important tools for making logistics decisions. Where practical, evaluate and test solutions in advance of full-scale deployment.
  • Tap into expertise: Look for providers that share your goals of meeting customer needs with practical, sustainable solutions. Ask for information about solutions that drive measureable results. And look for signs of ongoing commitment, such as long-term sustainability goals, or recognition from credible organizations.

Find Out More

  • Sustainability consulting services

    UPS can help customers to pioneer more sustainable solutions and deliver packages more efficiently.

    Learn more about sustainability solutions
  • Supply chain optimization

    If you are a retailer or supplier with a complex supply chain, trust UPS with supply chain optimization, and do what you do best.

    Optimize your supply chain
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