Five reasons it’s time to reconsider night-time deliveries

by Andrew Bell

Between 2009 and 2011, the Department for Transport (DfT), the Freight Transport Association (FTA) and the Noise Abatement Society (NAS) ran a series of six tests throughout different areas of the UK with several major online grocery deliverers to establish how effective and disruptive night-time deliveries would be in these neighbourhoods. Results were mixed, with the following Quiet Deliveries Demonstration Scheme (QDDS) report revealing that some of these trials did indeed draw formal noise and disruption complaints in some areas, indicating that ‘out of hours’ deliveries are by no means a one-size-fits-all solution.

For the neighbourhoods that are capable of accommodating night-time deliveries however, the relaxation of regulation could arguably bring major benefits to customers, drivers and companies alike. Some of these include:

1. The easing of congestion and infrastructure strain

Assigning deliveries to alternative night-time slots would mean deliveries that would usually take place during periods of high congestion could be deferred in order to reduce the strain on infrastructure. This would result in less traffic on the road during peak times, lowering the disruption during work and school commutes. With fewer large vans and trucks around during the day, commuters could spend less time on the road and more time doing what they actually want – and who doesn’t want that?

2. The easing of carbon emissions

Reducing traffic during peak hours and throughout the day would crucially reduce carbon emissions, particularly in high density UK cities such as London, Manchester and Birmingham. Indeed, research from King’s College London found that over 60% of the 97 air pollution monitoring sites in London broke legal annual limits in 2016. Deferring deliveries to the night could present a much needed solution to this growing public health crisis by lowering the volume of pollutants in the air at one time.

The QDDS report also revealed that in some cases fuel consumption can be cut with less congestion on the road. Reduced traffic means that deliveries can be completed more directly with less time waiting in traffic, resulting in less fuel used and significant fleet cost savings made.

3. Better for public safety

Reducing congestion during the day would be essential for improving safety in dense urban areas. Making deliveries at night when there are fewer pedestrians and less traffic in general would make the roads safer during the day when there is more activity, and would free up the road to be safer for peak times.

4. More convenient for consumers

Delivering during night-time hours means that customers can benefit from a more flexible service. This additional flexibility can suit individuals with more unusual working hours, or can enable faster delivery for customers that require an item last minute and don’t mind accepting it at an unsociable hour. Think the day before a birthday or anniversary!

5. More flexible working hours for supply chain professionals

Extending the range of hours that a delivery can be made also benefits supply chain professionals, particularly drivers, by offering a more flexible schedule not restricted by conventional working hours. This would work well for part-time drivers who hold more than one job or have other commitments during usual working hours, who could be more selective about the hours they work to accommodate their busy lifestyles.

For these reasons, maybe it’s time to think about reopening the debate surrounding night-time deliveries, particularly with the proliferation of smart technology and electric vehicles in logistics, which typically make less noise than conventional trucks and vans. Perhaps we should rerun these tests in new areas to establish which areas could be fertile ground for deliveries beyond conventional times to open up new opportunities for customers, supply chain professionals and delivery businesses alike.