Several of the initiative identified cannot be implemented by the company alone and require collaboration with other companies (e.g., manufacturing, IT companies) or with public authorities which is in line with the findings from the literature. These initiatives can lead not only to more time efficient distribution but also to better economic performance, increased safety levels, and better working conditions for truck drivers. Table 2
provides an overview of these initiatives classified as vehicle, handling equipment, navigation, or regulation and guidelines initiatives.
provides the relationship between potential costs and savings per initiative. Details on calculations for potential savings are based on the value of time for these vehicles and can be found in [5
], cost estimates were inferred from the interviews and some desk research. As costs depend on various considerations and only an approximation was possible, costs are classified as low (i.e., between 100 and 1000 euros per vehicles), medium (between 1000 and 10,000 euros per vehicle) and high (above 1000 euros per vehicle). The figure highlights initiatives that tend to have medium to low costs and medium to high benefits (i.e., handheld computers, pre-advice on upcoming customers, visible loading zones signs, faster tail lift and temporarily roller shutter, hands-free setup for phones, adjustable mirrors, and electric pallet jacks).
During the interviews, managers mentioned the importance of sensors around the entire chassis. The sensors would allow the driver to have a 360-degree visualization of the surroundings. This will become especially useful during parking in tight conditions. Often both drivers must maneuver underground malls. These areas are confined by narrow passages and strict maneuverability. Saving only 5% on driving and parking activities, the company can save about 42 min per week. The challenge of implementing these initiatives is mostly monetary. Companies usually opt for vehicles with basic interior design without special accessories.
Drivers also mentioned that adjustments to the cab height could improve time efficiency, while increasing driver safety and ergonomics. One of the activities that are repeated several times during the day is ascending to or descending from the truck’s cabin, which can be as high as 1.5 m. The authors observed during the time study that climbing into the cab took an unnecessarily high effort and time. Having trucks with lower cab or having foldable stairs could improve working conditions and slightly decrease access time.
Drivers suggested that decreasing turning radius of the vehicle would ameliorate the central city driving experience, thus improving both driving and parking. A suggestion to address maneuverability issues was to modify wing mirrors design. Observations during the time study confirm that mirrors often decreased the turning radius. Implementing foldable mirrors was proposed to decrease by 4.5% the turning radius required, this would make a difference for narrow streets in the city center. Mirrors would only be folded when required and sensors would offset visibility loss when mirrors are folded.
Drivers often need to make calls to customers or answer the phone when driving. In most cases, drivers must stop to talk on the phone (otherwise they use the phone while driving although this is forbidden) which affects time-efficiency. Implementing available low-cost Bluetooth hands-free systems will improve time-efficiency and decrease safety risks. Having this system will also allow them to have better communication with other drivers and share traffic conditions and incidents in real-time so that drivers can use alternative roads to save time.
According to the time study, tail lifting takes 3.8% of work time, i.e., 1 h 38 min per week, thus reducing time related to this activity could bring some time efficiency gains. Speed is seen as the biggest drawback, especially during morning hours and winters when the apparatus is still cold. Lowering/rising the tail lift takes about 15 s and this can be repeated 40 times per day as the tail lift has to be closed every time the driver moves away from the truck (except in malls). As lowering/rising speed is constrained by safety standards to avoid getting the hand or head stuck, moving the buttons farther from the back end of the truck or having a remote control could prevent accidents and allow an increase in speed. Alternatively, it was suggested to implement temporary automatic security roller shutters, as the shutter are thin and light closing them will take less time.
5.2.1. Handling Equipment
Investing in improving handling equipment has also been identified as a means to improve time efficiency. The time spend on the handheld computer accounts for 7% of the work time, i.e., 3 h 1 min per week. In drivers focus groups, through observations, and during interviews with managers, the speed of handheld computers was a common point of discussion. A significant amount of time can be saved with a faster and simpler system for the handheld computer, and service level will also improve. The tasks done in the handheld computer could also be completed via a smartphone app.
The time study shows that 10% of drivers’ work time is spent walking to and from the customer, i.e., 4 h 22 min per week. The drivers highlighted the need for electric pallet jacks (ET) with rubber wheels. Only one of the drivers was using an ET with plastic tires, which is not suitable for cobblestone streets and uneven surfaces in the city center of Gothenburg. In these circumstances, the ET was extremely noisy and unstable. Proper equipment would improve working conditions and reduce handling time. Results from the time study also show an additional 1.5% of the time, i.e., 39 min per week, spent on pallet jack handling inside the body of the truck. This time is used to secure the PJs. Using electric alternatives, this time could be eliminated entirely as the automatic break in the electric motor prevents the ET from moving when not in use. Alternatively, it instead of striping pallet jacks (PJ) to the wall on the back of the truck as done now, a magnet in the PJ’s handle could save time.
Navigation initiatives address operations and delivery sequencing. These improvements focus on better time utilization, smarter driving, and route planning. They can often be implemented internally by the company. None of the drivers in the company uses a GPS navigation system. Drivers undergo training by job shadowing a colleague over a course of a few weeks. This allows the new employee to understand the basics of the profession, but also provides him an opportunity to get acquainted with reoccurring customers. The company has dedicated three drivers for goods distribution to the city center, some of the destinations are reoccurring but with the increase of home deliveries there are is an increasing number of new destinations. The drivers do not have any real time information except the communication with other drivers and dispatchers. During the time study a road incident that was not anticipated caused a delay of more than 20 min.
An enhanced navigation system could also decrease time to find the exact location of the customers’ goods receipt area. During the focus group several drivers mentioned that access to loading bays is often impeded or difficult to locate. Less time is wasted on searching for the loading zone as the drivers could constantly update customers’ location in the system. During the time study both researchers experienced several occasions when the drivers did not find the correct location. Therefore, they had to pull over to call the customer for supplementary instructions on how to reach them. Some drivers admitted that they often had to use navigation applications on their personal cellphones to pinpoint the location of the customer. Ideally, the system could involve an application through which the information could be shared by multiple 3PLs and receivers, further increasing the accuracy of the information. This also provides an incentive for the receivers as the delivery accuracy is increased and the goods are delivered on time.
Almost all the early morning deliveries during the field study took longer because drivers arrived before opening hours or the customer was late. In some cases, this caused the drivers to wait outside the store up to 21 min. Waiting time represented 5.7% of the working time, i.e., 2 h 27 min per week. If drivers know that receivers are not available beforehand, they can modify the order of deliveries. To offset these time losses, a touchscreen monitor could include pre-advice information on the imminent customer. This involves being able to send the customer a signal prior to arrival but also the aforesaid information regarding the exact location of the goods receipt area. Signaling the customer beforehand will smoothen the process and allow the customer to be prepared for the delivery.
Route planning is currently done by drivers and takes 4% of work time, i.e., 1 h 43 min per week. Drivers receive an entire list of deliveries from the dispatcher when arriving at the terminal. Thereafter, they walk to the assigned loading bay and checks the goods adjacent to it. Only after scanning and confirming that all the goods are in a correct state, they create the loading sequence based on how to distribute the deliveries. The sequencing is based primarily on their existing knowledge on where customers are located and their respective opening hours. Preliminary routes could be preplanned by the dispatcher assisted by a software.
Current route planning has two tours and a stop at the terminal at lunch time. When inquiring for the planning, the main reasons reported were that (i) in some cases the truck capacity is not sufficient for all the deliveries of the day (but unused capacity was also observed in some tours), and (ii) drivers prefer having lunch at the terminal because there are no parking facilities available in the city center, which mean they can combine their lunch break with the terminal stopover in between tours. As drivers have their lunch break around 11:00, if they do not manage to deliver some of the goods from the morning tour they bring them back to the terminal. Thus, unnecessary weight is sometimes transported leading to economic inefficiencies and unnecessary environmental impacts.
In terms of demand and capacity, the data shows that 27 pallets are delivered on average on a typical day by each of the two trucks (18-pallets capacity). Thus, delivering the daily demand of 54 pallets would take three tours with 18 pallets if there were not time constraints. This could save one full tour and a big part of the operational costs associated with it (e.g., fuel, truck wages). However, this change can only be considered if the 18 pallets could be distributed during the morning shift, or if parking space for medium-duty trucks was provided in the city center.
5.2.3. Regulation and guidelines
Regulation initiatives address features which would lead to more efficient city logistics. These improvements focus on developing guidelines for loading zone signs, considering access to bus lanes, and improving loading zones.
The visibility of the signs indicating the location of loading zones at customers sites was a common issue stated by the drivers. Currently, 57 min are spent weekly on finding the loading zones and getting in contact with customers. Drivers believe that authorities could encourage companies to have more visible signs or provide some guidelines. Ideally, this would minimize the total time spent on driving. This is especially relevant when new customers are served, and the exact location of their goods receipt area is unknown. It would also be beneficial when the destination comprises many loading bays. These settings are very common with larger shopping centers. As of today, there is no specific information shared with the drivers on which loading bay should be used. Finding the correct loading bay is time consuming and stressful due to the narrow passages in the goods receipt area. This is also beneficial for receivers as the time spent at malls is decreased, resulting in better use of space and higher capacity of the receiving area.
Another suggestion stated by the drivers involves changes in legislation. The drivers stressed that allowing trucks to use bus lanes could lead to significant time savings. This is confirmed with the GPS traces where several inefficient detours are caused by areas where only public transportation was allowed. If trucks get access to the bus lanes, congestion could be reduced for all users. There have been some national efforts to study this initiative.
The field study shows that time spent on searching for a vacant loading zone and parking consumed 3% of work time, i.e., 1 h 20 min per week. During the focus group, the drivers suggested to implement sensors at loading zones in the city center. As loading zones in the city center are often occupied by other vehicles, drivers are forced to change their delivery sequence losing significant time and driving more kms. During the time study, both drivers experienced such an occurrence at least once a day. An extension of this initiative could be to implement a timetable where trucks pre-book a time slot in advance.
Overall, these results show that most initiatives can bring small gains, but when aggregating all potential time savings there is a big potential to improve urban distribution time efficiency. It is also important to consider price, although some initiatives can bring big time savings, their prices are prohibitive and will not make sense from a financial perspective. Initiatives with highest potential and low cost were the better pre-advice on upcoming customers, improved route planning, hand-free cell phone use, and enhanced handling equipment. For some of the initiatives, time spent is not the most relevant aspect, but instead bigger benefits can come from improving drivers’ working conditions and other societal benefits.