Our Operations Director, Yvonne Palmer, shared her thoughts on the challenges of last-mile deliveries in the lead-up to Black Friday with Fleet World.

Despite the pinch of the cost-of-living crisis taking hold of the country, it is estimated that UK consumers will spend nearly £4bn in Black Friday sales this year, ahead of the festive season. The result of this mass spending is an increased demand for commercial vehicles to help ensure high street stores are fully stocked with products, and to support the continued high demand for home deliveries.

As consumers increasingly turn to eCommerce for their shopping needs, the old ‘4-6 business days for delivery’ is a thing of the past as they have come to expect speedy deliveries. In response, businesses have had to find ways to beat the challenges around same-day, final-mile delivery. This refers to the ‘last mile’ of delivery – the point at which the package finally arrives at the buyer’s door – which is the most expensive and time-consuming part of the delivery process. If you have ever been waiting on a package to arrive and watched the driver move across the map as it counted down to your delivery, you will already understand that the main last-mile problem is inefficiency, as one driver carries out multiple stops across a large area. While deliveries within cities may appear to be closer together by distance, there is likely to be more congestion or road works that lead to additional delays.

Technology is proven to make it much easier to deliver orders to customers on time and with as few issues as possible. Through rental, businesses can upscale their fleet for busy periods – planning ahead as much as possible to ensure they have the vehicles they need, when they need them the most. Not only do consumers want their orders fulfilled quickly, but they also want to receive real-time updates of the status of their order – via in-app notifications or text alerts – which has become more common due to the likes of Uber and Amazon delivering notifications this way. While these sorts of real-time demands enhance pressure on the supply-chain network, it also works to hold delivery services more accountable, if the actual timelines differ from the projected ones – particularly during last-mile delivery stages.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of a supply-chain network is the unpredictability of external factors. As temperatures begin to drop, it is vital that businesses have contingency plans in place to manage sudden changes, such as potential bad weather conditions, collisions, traffic diversions, or vehicle breakdowns, which happen unexpectedly. To minimise downtime, it is essential that fleet managers anticipate all potential risks in advance. The onus is on fleet managers to maintain seamless communication, not only with their internal teams, but also with their customers to ensure issues are highlighted quickly and resolved in a way that works for everyone.

In recent years, there has been a shift in consumers’ priorities in relation to sustainability, opting to buy from businesses that can demonstrate they have ‘green,’ or greener practices. As a result, more companies are looking to use electric vehicles or even deliver via electric bike or scooter, particularly for last-mile deliveries. This may mean that drivers are arriving at the edge of urban areas and switching to smaller EVs to make deliveries within city centres. Not only does this have a positive impact upon pollution in our cities, but businesses and couriers can avoid ULEZ charges too.

With customer demand increasing, the last-mile delivery market is growing, and fleet managers find themselves having to accurately manage collections, shipping and last-mile delivery processes, whilst providing an excellent customer service experience and maintaining their fleets efficiency, particularly as the festivities start to ramp up this week as many people start their Christmas shopping in the sales over Black Friday weekend.

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