Downtown congestion due to 18-wheel delivery trucks during daylight hours may have solutions, to the satisfaction of both truck drivers and citizens
Have you ever tried pulling into one of those tiny convenience store parking lots, only to be foiled by a 18-wheel beer truck? For that matter, have you ever had to dodge the beer-truck delivery man crossing a busy street with his hand truck, while off-loading that same 18-wheeler parked in the median? You might be surprised at the relative ease some cities have had solving this congestion problem.
Delivery trucks are a staple of small retail businesses. They not only deliver, but they help stock these retailers, relieving the store owner from doing much of their own stocking. Of course different cities have different means of accommodating these delivery vehicles, which are often much larger than a van or box-truck (about the size of a U-Haul rental truck). If you live in a newer city with many large boulevards and shopping centers, this may not present much of a problem. But in most established communities, these delivery trucks often compete for what little transportation space our older downtowns or neighborhoods offer.
To perhaps complicate matters, the need for delivery vehicles will become greater in future years, as buyers are doing more online shopping. Drones and driverless vehicles may arrive to hasten delivery, but will not necessarily resolve congestion (plus heck, they’re kind of scary too). Alas, the 18-wheel beer truck, our transportation dilemma of the day, may not even get the driverless or drone treatment unless stocking becomes robotic (probably not in the near future).
New York City’s late-night delivery program
Recently, New York City completed a hugely successful late-night freight delivery program, per a recent article in Citylab. Businesses in a pilot project area arranged to have freight delivered during off-hours, which greatly reduced downtown congestion and pollution. Since business owners are the initiators of the deliveries (the truckers work at their request), city based incentives were issued and the truckers followed suit. Businesses had to either allow for employees to work late, or to provide truckers with their own access. Delivery efficiencies went up due to lighter traffic, while truckers enjoyed fewer tolls, tickets and delays. Needless to say, the public was the greatest beneficiary in efficiencies and lack of daytime noise, congestion and pollution.
Perhaps this could be tried on an experimental basis in selected cities across the nation, for freight delivery. And while we’re at it, could we move the local garbage pickup hours back to early morning the way they once existed? These large vehicles pick up at all daytime hours now, requiring dangerous passing maneuvers by restricted traffic on narrow roads. The garbage companies may squawk about having to pay a large off-hour differential, but differential is small in the industry (I know as I’ve paid out night-work construction jobs). In fact most workers would love to start work at 2 am and be off by 10 am, and work in the calm of the early morning hours. Since most County dumps open at 7 am, surely they can accommodate these hours.
The driverless future of freight delivery?
Per the trucking industry magazine Transit Topics, driverless freight may be coming in the form of large driverless trucks, which exit highways into regional urban transfer facilities, while freight is moved to smaller driverless vehicles for city transport. As one would expect, these ideas are getting resistance from Union drivers, however the consensus is that self-driving features may come more in the form of an “autopilot” while a service man would still be needed for related chores such as oversight, maintenance, and stocking.
So in other words, quicker than you can say “Yikes, Andrew Yang was right!”, some form of quasi-robotic freight moving may soon be upon us, but the good news is that goods may be moved more efficiently, prices of goods may drop, there will be less congestion, and there will probably need to be a human working with the robot to make sure the robot works properly, maintain the robot, do things the robot can’t do (like give out tips or call police on would-be robbers), or kill the robot if it goes “Terminator 3” (ok I was just kidding on the last part)
While late-night deliveries could be implemented immediately, driverless freight and transfer stations may take some time, due to regulatory statutes, technology and infrastructure improvements. The issue of “who takes the responsibility for the robot” is a large one and affects driverless cars also. Presumably this is a legal issue in which the responsibilities involve the human being in the vehicle (the overseer?) and the technology being used.