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Freight TAILS Focus on … Integration

07 March 2017

Consideration of 'urban freight transport' and ‘integration’ is the third of six transnational themes for Freight TAILS.

Freight TAILS partners will contribute their experiences and knowledge to papers on the relationship between urban freight management and six transnational themes: stakeholders, data, integration, regulation & enforcement, voluntary behaviour change, and procurement.

‘Integration’ was the focus of transnational meeting 1-2 February 2017 in Parma, Italy.  Prior to this transnational exchange, all Freight TAILS cities liaised with their local stakeholders via their URBACT Local Groups, to gain their insight into the topic.  During the meeting in Parma, attendees also heard various ‘voices of experience’ from both local and wider European contributors. 

We considered the topic of urban freight transport and integration with…

  • The wider urban transport system
  • The environment
  • The economy
  • The society

We captured the key points raised across the two meeting days through an integration tetris board:


Freight TAILS Lead Expert, Philip Stein, outlines the key points raised below:

What do we mean by ‘integration’ in the context of urban freight?

  • Ensuring that decision-making takes into account economic, social and cultural concerns and that freight activity patterns and actions achieve positive outcomes for wider local community needs (or at a very minimum do not detract from those needs).
  • Harmonisation of policy and actions, locally, regionally (sector and authorities/agencies) to streamline efficiency, save money and reduce impacts.
  • Fully addressing urban freight transport within strategic documents like SUMPs and SEAPs (holistic planning), will allow local intervention and sustainability of measures to benefit from links to higher level planning, coordination and collaboration with other sectors.
  • Understanding that distribution and despatching, while traditionally regarded as one key service, is not a stand-alone activity. It affects quality of life and quality of place positively and negatively, it is in turn affected by economic, demographic, lifestyle changes.
  • The incorporation of essential stakeholders to take the opinions of retailers, consumers… into account and combine specialist knowledge of operators, planners, academics... forging cooperation across public and private sector and seeking to build consensus.


Why is it important to integrate urban freight alongside wider transport, economic, social and environmental considerations?  Are there any risks associated with non-integration?


  • Consideration of urban freight transport alongside the whole urban transport system is necessary in order to achieve objectives such as reducing congestion.
  • It is necessary to revisit regulation measures and access restrictions to reconcile real needs and behaviour patterns. Regulations must be workable and therefore enforceable.
  • Urban freight movements need also to be regarded in terms of road maintenance: heavy loads, heavy vehicles and frequency of deliveries have consequences which range from obstruction and inconvenience (road repairs, detours), costs to tax payers and damage to private vehicles.

Economic issues

  • Businesses could derive economic benefits by adjusting their delivery and servicing activities i.e. using alternative last mile solutions (clean vehicles, consolidation), night time deliveries, joining forces to reduce trips etc.  Data to support the % reductions in cost associated with these measures is likely to provide motivation to businesses to change their practices, however, it is not yet widely available.
  • Creating attractive quality places for business is important in improving city competitiveness. Within an urban area, the negative impacts caused by delivery and servicing activity can reduce footfall, and affect consumer spending.
  • Cities need to be both aware and responsive to real and rapid changes in the way we buy goods and services: for example, the explosion of business to consumer deliveries – what does the future really hold for home deliveries, what policy/economic measures might determine developments?
  • Within the logistics sector there is strong competition and profit margins are tight.  When implementing new measures to address urban freight transport issues cities should be aware of the impacts that specific requirements would make on businesses required meeting those requirements, and considering providing support where necessary. 


  • Road safety is a big societal issue, especially at the interface between goods vehicles and vulnerable road users.
  • Some other quality of life aspects such as noise, public health, quality of public realm are still not high on the agenda of many stakeholders, and yet these undoubtedly have cross-cutting and financial consequences for the sector and society in general. Awareness raising and capacity building around such apparently lesser priorities is necessary.
  • As distribution models adapt it is necessary to respond to changing skills needs, for example new skills are required for electric vehicle maintenance.


  • Concerns about air quality are finally driving policy change in cities, pollution levels are being more stringently monitored and results communicated. Air pollution can be solidly linked to urban freight transport movements but in many cities and among stakeholders, transport actions are not yet necessarily linked to this major problem.
  • Where a decrease in local traffic generated air pollutants can be achieved, this leads to improved health outcomes, fewer restrictions and warnings against use of public space for exercise, schools, playgrounds etc.
  • Adaptation to climate change is a real feature on the horizon which will impact on transportation, therefore also urban freight transport, and needs to be considered now (heat, floods, storms, fires, eventually sea-level rise).

Awareness of risks

  • The development of measures to address urban freight transport alongside wider urban transport, economic, social and environmental considerations would, we believe, lead to more effective and successful measures being introduced.
  • Delivery of successful urban freight transport measures will keep stakeholders motivated, satisfied and engaged.
  • Raising awareness of urban freight transport issues amongst a wide range of stakeholders from beyond the ‘traditional’ urban freight audience should help support decision-makers in taking ‘difficult’ decisions.


How can UFT be included as integral element in wider approach to bridge transport, economic, social, and environmental objectives?

  • To ensure an integrated approach, cities should undertake a review of policy that addresses urban freight transport (at EU, national, regional, local levels) together with a reassessment of the position of city logistics in relevant (also until now missing) policy areas.
  • Cities should assemble teams, partnerships, committees or task forces of key actors to build shared roadmaps/action plans, which include people from outside the strictly imagined boundaries of the sector. Engaging directly with those likely to be interested or affected by logistics activity means that common goals can help to: focus and accelerate decision making; seek compromise where necessary; fix joint agendas (cross department, cross sector, transport operators, business and retail, research...), and; increase feasibility.
  • We need communication, co-operation and transparency to help us think sustainably around urban freight transport and to achieve fundamental change in hearts and minds.


Who needs to be involved when seeking to integrate urban freight into wider transport, economic, social and environmental considerations?

Everyone?!? ...

  • Careful identification and mapping of stakeholders is required to determine how and when to best engage with different audiences to improve practice and deliver sustainable and efficient urban freight transport solutions.  
  • Freight and last mile distribution continues to operate in a fragmented market with limitations to cooperation so it is advisable to explore how stakeholders can work together to maximise impacts whilst utilising fewer resources.


When is it best to integrate urban freight alongside wider transport, economic, social and environmental considerations?

Early … and constantly…

  • Integration should underpin the design of wider urban strategy with urban freight transport as key component.
  • Consider wider issues and integrate as early as possible and on a regular basis – from beginning to analyse challenges and goals, to the end, defining plans and actions. When decisions are taken with long term consequences it is very hard to change momentum or mechanisms at a later stage e.g. legislation, urban planning, transport infrastructure, fleet selection etc.
  • When introducing new procedures it can be interesting to build incrementally, small steps to grow confidence where success will attract success, acceptance and finance.
  • Be responsive to justified stakeholder needs and demands in a changing urban freight transport landscape where solutions often need to be flexible and adapted over time.


Future Freight TAILS Focus … Regulation & Enforcement

The next Freight TAILS theme to be discussed by URBACT local groups is urban freight transport and ‘regulation & enforcement’, which will be the thematic focus of our next Freight TAILS transnational meeting in Gdynia, Poland on 5-6 April 2017. 

Please contact the Freight TAILS project co-ordinator: Charlotte Knell, Cross River Partnership,  if you would like to feed in your thoughts on the topics of urban freight management and ‘integration’ and/or ‘regulation & enforcement’.