What Are the Environmental Impacts of Last-Mile Delivery, and How Can They Be Minimised?


Last-mile delivery (also known as final mile delivery) refers to the movement of goods from a transportation hub to their final destination, which is often at the customer’s doorstep. It’s the last step for deliveries, and it’s important to ensure businesses do this part right because this can be the difference between a delivery being made or not. There is evidence that suggests last minute delivery costs around 28% of the total delivery cost, so it’s a significant investment.

The industry is also changing the way they view last mile delivery, with many businesses up and down the country focusing on it as differentiation in their business. With more and more consumers turning to ecommerce for all their purchases, the need for last mile delivery services will continue to grow. According to the World Economic Forum, the number of delivery vehicles in the delivery sector will need to increase by 36% by 2030 to meet the demand. Therefore, it’s vital that the environmental impacts are minimised so the environment doesn’t suffer long term.

Keep on reading to find out some of the environmental impacts of last mile delivery, and how they can be minimised. 

The environmental impacts of last mile delivery

Last mile delivery is often associated with vehicle emissions and environmental damage. One of the main factors for this is the use of fossil fuel powered vehicles including trucks, vans, and cars. All these vehicles emit carbon dioxide and other toxic elements that over time can have a negative impact on human health and the Earth’s atmosphere. However, this can be said for most forms of travel. 

But what makes last mile delivery different? The delivery to consumers is often associated with populated urban areas full of houses, and business hubs. Drivers delivering parcels will often be backtracking on themselves quite often, taking the longer route to deliver parcels on time. This leads to more fuel and emissions being offset, as well as increased wear and tear on vehicles, leading to higher maintenance costs and lower fuel efficiency. These busy urban areas may lead to high levels of traffic congestion. 

How can they be minimised?

Use electric vehicles

One way to minimise the environmental impact of last mile delivery is to focus on using more electric vehicles for your fleet. Using electric vehicles will lead to a significant reduction in emissions and pollution being released into the environment, which will have a positive impact on air pollution. However, you need to ensure that the vehicles used have the capacity to complete the deliveries  or there are enough charging stations in the area where the deliveries will be made.  According to a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation, electric delivery vehicles emit 40% fewer greenhouse emissions. 

Plan your delivery route beforehand

Another way to reduce the environmental impacts of last mile delivery is through planning your delivery beforehand. This can be achieved by looking at the various destination points on the route, and seeing if a route can be altered to reduce the distance travelled. This will also cut the time it will take to make the delivery. .

If you are awaiting orders to come through, waiting until they have all come in before setting out on a delivery route can also lead to one trip, over two. 

Use carbon offsets

Carbon offsetting can neutralise the environmental footprint of a business. Companies can do this by tracking their use of fuel, energy and storage leading to an approximation of their carbon footprint. Then, businesses can take action so they can offset their own carbon footprint. 

For example, some businesses may plant trees, or use solar or wind energy.

The use of click and collect 

Promoting the use of click and collect services can lead to a reduction in the number of deliveries needed to consumers’ doorsteps. Instead, parcels can be kept at the post office or another designated location. As well as reducing the number of journeys needed to more doorsteps for delivery drivers, the use of click and collect leads to a reduction in journeys overall. Customers who need to collect their goods may decide to pick up their parcels on the way to work, or during the school run. 

Overall, we hope this article has been useful for you to understand how the environmental impacts of last mile delivery can be minimised. Perhaps you run your own business that conducts last mile deliveries, or you can take these tips on board to help reduce your own carbon footprint.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.