There’s no denying the appeal of e-commerce. It’s great to be able to order something online and have it appear on your doorstep in mere hours or days; it’s one of the joys of modern living. Still, swift and satisfying e-commerce delivery comes with a cost. A recent study looks at the impact this type of product delivery has on traffic and the environment.
- The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently released a study that looks at the impact of e-commerce delivery on climate and traffic congestion.
- This study estimates that last-mile delivery emissions are on track to increase by over 30 percent by 2030 in the top 100 cities globally.
- Also, as a result of e-commerce delivery, traffic congestion is expected to rise by over 21 percent by the end of the current decade.
It’s convenient to order products online, but e-commerce delivery comes with a cost. (Photo: RoseBox/Unsplash)
E-commerce sales are booming
E-commerce sales have been in the throes of a major upswing over the past few years. Consumers have been ordering more products than ever online, seduced by the appeal of quick, reliable delivery. According to Internet Retailer, e-commerce sales for 2019 are projected to show a year-over-year increase of 17.9 percent globally and 14 percent here in the U.S.
This growth has been fueled by a host of varying factors. Globally, the middle class is growing, and this expands the consumer base for e-commerce products. Also, the range of products that may be purchased online is broader than it’s ever been, and this helps spike demand.
Finally, there have been technological advancements in delivery that allow buyers to get their products dropped off to them more quickly than ever before, and this has made online shopping more attractive. Within the last-mile delivery environment, same-day and instant delivery are the fastest-growing segments. Respectively, these areas have shown increases of 36 percent and 17 percent per year.
Looking ahead, e-commerce deliveries are expected show a 78 percent increase by 2030, according to the WEF report.
The cost of convenience
More e-commerce delivery vehicles on the roads means more traffic congestion and more emissions. (Photo: Joline Torres/Unsplash)
The WEF report estimates that the number of delivery vehicles in the top 100 cities globally will show a 36 percent increase by 2030.
Having all those additional vehicles on the roads will impact emissions. It’s estimated that emissions from delivery traffic will show a 32-percent increase by the end of the current decade.
E-commerce delivery is also on track to bring undesirable changes when it comes to traffic flow. Over the next 10 years, traffic congestion is expected to rise by over 21 percent, adding an extra 11 minutes of daily travel time from commuters.
New solutions for new problems
The study makes recommendations that aim to address the problems created by the bustling delivery environment. According to WEF, the best solution is one that balances the carriers’ need for swift delivery with the cities’ desire for fewer emissions and less traffic congestion.
This multi-pronged approach includes night delivery and a broader use of electric delivery vehicles, along with dynamic re-routing and load pooling among carriers. By 2030, taking this route could bring a 30 percent reduction in local emissions and a 30 percent reduction in traffic congestion compared to the results that are expected if we continue on the current path. This approach could also net a 25 percent reduction in unit cost for carriers.
WHY THIS MATTERS
The WEF study identifies some serious issues that are likely to appear down the road due to our growing appetite for buying products online. Inner-city communities are already struggling with the effect of e-commerce delivery on air pollution and traffic congestion. The recommendations made in this study seem like a smart way of hurdling a looming challenge.