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We thought we’d already witnessed the explosion of eCommerce. Then COVID-19 hit — and online shopping grew faster than we ever thought possible.

Total online spending in May 2021 hit $82.5 billion, a year-on-year increase of 77%. Meanwhile, food business delivery revenue surged 103% during the pandemic, with delivery apps at the center of this growth.

But while consumers have welcomed the convenience, ease of use and user experience on offer, this shift has come at a cost. And we’re not just talking about the delivery fee.

Photograph of a delivery man walking with a package

Last mile deliveries: the last straw for drivers

The surge in last mile deliveries has almost certainly contributed to a hike in commercial traffic of all shapes and sizes — from 18-wheelers to vans, cars and mopeds.

Even before the pandemic, when nobody could have predicted the dramatic ecommerce growth we were about to encounter, the World Economic Forum calculated that emissions from delivery traffic would increase by nearly a third before 2030, while congestion would rise by over 21% during the same period.

Anecdotal evidence suggests this increase in commercial traffic is already leading to frustration for road users. In cities that aren’t designed for frequent drop-offs, delivery drivers are being forced to stop in the middle of the road — causing delays for the drivers behind them, and affecting traffic flow.

Heat map of delivery traffic in Columbus 2019

Heat map of delivery traffic in Columbus 2021

The visualizations above highlight the number of commercial door-to-door delivery events pre- and post-pandemic for the city of Columbus. The darker the road segments, the more parking events on those road segments.


And when delivery drivers do find parking spots, they’re often using ones that aren’t designed for quick drop-offs.

This creates a complication of its own: delivery drivers are likely to delay other road users as they navigate their way in and out of spaces designed for medium to long term parking.

While this isn’t an issue when residents park once or twice a day, frequent delays can lead to sustained traffic build-up in urban areas.

What’s the answer?

If you’re a parking or traffic planner, you’ll already be aware of the issues caused by last mile deliveries. You may have considered implementing new drop-off zones to help ease delays caused by commercial vehicles.

Or you might be taking the World Economic Forum’s advice: their analysis suggested that effective double-parking enforcement or the implementation of express lanes for delivery vehicles could reduce congestion by up to 29% and 18%, respectively.

But every urban area is different, so who’s to say those measures would be effective in your cities? And even once you’ve chosen your solutions, where should you implement them for maximum effect?

The answer lies in traffic data. Or, more specifically, context-rich traffic data. Our Altitude platform provides you with rich commercial and consumer vehicle insights for smarter planning and management.

It’s what allows you to understand when and where commercial vehicles are travelling — so you can spot problem areas, reduce congestion, and proactively improve the long-term efficiency and safety of your transportation network.

Combine our leading commercial vehicle and freight data with open-sourced street data and gain an expansive and granular picture of road traffic flow.

You can also delve into the nature of commercial vehicle and freight activity on your roads. That way, you’ll be able to identify critical transportation insights — and make informed decisions about the parking needs within your area.

At Geotab ITS, we provide you with all the insight you need to make key decisions with confidence. You can find out more about our Altitude data platform here.

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