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Distribution centres for fresh and perishable goods

Utrecht

Utrecht is eager to reduce road freight transport to the city centre and looked into possibilities for distribution centres for fresh and perishable goods.

Implementing sustainable mobility

A clean and accessible city centre requires good organized freight logistics. Efficient goods supply contributes to the development of local economy. The city of Utrecht is looking at alternatives for freight logistics and especially for supplying catering businesses. Utrecht recognizes that catering delivery service requires a specific logistic to guarantee the catering quality, to fulfil the requests of the customers and to deal with the delivery time windows regulation. Catering goods are usually delivered several times a week, which increases the freight traffic in the inner-city. The CIVITAS MIMOSA measure seeks to elaborate and implement a sustainable catering delivery service in Utrecht. The concept is based on bundling fresh and perishable goods in an Urban Distribution Centre (UDC) and using cleaner freight transport vehicles for the distribution. The overall objective of the measure was to contribute to reduce freight traffic and therefore to improve air quality in the inner-city of Utrecht.

How did the measure progress?

Utrecht was able to secure the commitment of a local wholesaler called GEPU that is eager to cooperate on this endeavour. In autumn 2010, Utrecht held an exploratory roundtable with retailers, wholesalers, transport companies and the Chamber of Commerce to establish market potential and needs. This was followed by a second roundtable later in the year, where a range of practical solutions was presented to stakeholders. These two consultation rounds produced a business plan for the bundling of fresh and perishable goods that was finalised at the end of 2010. This comprehensive research plan comprised various analyses including an assessment of the current situation, a stock-take of the city’s existing policies and goals, a market analysis, and an evaluation of various options for bundled delivery of perishable goods.
The report concluded on the most promising options for Utrecht. The first option would be “cross-docking” where large suppliers take cargo with them from small suppliers. This system already exists in some places in the Netherlands. The second option would be an online selling system that bundles the stock of small- and medium-sized suppliers facilitated by the infrastructure of an independent professional transporter. Catering businesses would be able to order different food products from various suppliers through a website. The products are collected from the various suppliers at a central location and there from delivered in one package to the catering business.
Based on the information provided by desk research and the group discussions, a market analysis of the situation in Utrecht was made. The city of Utrecht organised a workshop to present, discuss and validate the results of this analysis to elaborate a concept business plan for a pilot project with bundling fresh and perishable goods. This concept business plan was used by the city of Utrecht to initiate this pilot.
Several meetings took place and discussions about the operation of the pilot. In the end the cooperation with GEPU turned out to be too complex. The main bottleneck was that GEPU is a wholesaler and not a transporter. They organise their own transport for supplying but they are not allowed to transport for other companies as a transport company, unless they would organise this within a different business construction.

The 'Mariaplaats', a neighbourhood located in the city centre of Utrecht, was selected as focus area for the implementation of the pilot project. Unfortunately, the interest in the measure among the stakeholders in Mariaplaats was insufficient to start the pilot project. Efforts have been invested to encourage them to participate, raise their awareness and especially to identify reliable partners to implement the pilot project. Finally Hoek Transport, was interested in conducting a pilot project in the whole city centre in the year of 2013, using their Cargohopper (UTR 7.3). The municipality has only a moderating role in this pilot and is not directing as it is a private initiative. However the knowledge can be used to decide whether or not bundling measures should be stimulated.

What were the outcomes of the measure?

This measure aimed at decreasing road freight transport and the resulting PM10, NOx and CO2 emissions to catering businesses in the city centre, deploying cleaner freight transport vehicles and achieving a considerable increase of bundling in transportation of perishable goods.
As gaining support for a pilot took more time than foreseen, the pilot had yet to be finalised. Because of that, the evaluation focused essentially on the process evaluation through standardized forms.This measure aimed at decreasing road freight transport and the resulting PM10, NOx and CO2 emissions to catering businesses in the city centre, deploying cleaner freight transport vehicles and achieving a considerable increase of bundling in transportation of perishable goods.
As gaining support for a pilot took more time than foreseen, the pilot had yet to be finalised. Because of that, the evaluation focused essentially on the process evaluation through standardized forms.

The main barrier of implementing the measure is the major changes that are required in the individual organisation of the catering providers to create a bundling good delivery system. The delivery service that providers are currently offering, allows them to establish a certain degree of personal contact with their customers. By using their current service, they also have direct control on the quality of the delivery service; to ensure fresh goods, be flexible to deliver in time and to adapt the service according to the customers requests. Catering providers do not yet see personal benefits to shift from a traditional delivery service to a bundling good delivery system. Besides this there are no profound examples of bundling fresh goods and many catering businesses focus on other priorities due to the economic crisis. They also believe that delivery regulations are the responsibility of the municipality.
However, the awareness among catering providers on the negative impact that high freight traffic produces in the inner-city had been a driver for the measure. Reducing freight traffic contributes to improve the liveable quality of the inner-city, which will have direct positive impacts on catering providers business. Catering providers are aware of the pressing necessity to shift the current freight transport towards a more sustainable system.

The results of the measure gives an assessment of the current catering delivery system in Utrecht. The findings can be useful for the future implementation of the pilot project which will be conducted by Hoek Transport in 2013. Both current findings and the future results of the pilot project will be relevant sources to be used for the completion of the elaborated Concept Business Plan.
As a pioneer measure in the Netherlands, the outcomes of the field-researches point out the challenges that a shift from a traditional delivery system towards a bundling delivery service is faced with and allows to draw critical recommendations for the design of similar measures in the Netherlands and in other European cities.

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