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Apply Internet technology to road freight ! [Pas le bon titre]

Internet and the road, twins in every way?

On the Internet, the TCP/IP protocol splits information into packets that are sent over the network. These packets follow different routes before arriving at the final computer where they are grouped and checked. The initial information is then reconstituted and delivered to the user. So what’s the connection with the delivery of goods, I hear you ask?

The roads to major cities are filled with an almost infinite number of empty boot compartments, attached to their driver at a distance of about 1.5m. These boot compartments, accompanied by the rest of the car and the driver, can be found statistically just about anywhere in the city.

Imagine if goods shippers could take advantage of this unused transport capacity to shift their parcels: we would avoid a significant number of truck journeys and empty returns and thus also cut emissions of CO2, NOx and other particles. However, creative thinking is needed on one point: how can we easily move goods from one vehicle boot to another, without wasting the driver’s time and while making sure that the parcels arrive at the right place within a reasonable time frame?

                  How could a system of this type work? Let’s use our imaginations…

The type of freight

First requirement: this system could be used only for non-perishable goods with a long life span and, insofar as possible, standardised (tinned goods, tetra packs, shoes, etc.). Because you cannot keep a crate of lettuces or a kilo of meat for two hours in a car boot!

The handover

The basic idea is not for drivers to notch up additional mileage but to unload the goods at a stop-off point on their usual route.

The loading/unloading points are at the core of the system. They need to be functional and present in significant numbers. This role might be played by service stations around large cities. Within the city, the network could use the unloading areas of mini-markets or supermarkets to begin with.

Loading/unloading is a good start, but doing so in the right place is even better!

How do drivers know where to drop parcels off? Today, probably all motorists have a GPS or smartphone, so developing special apps should not be a problem. These apps will tell me where I can drop the goods off (so another motorist can pick them up and continue the journey) and collect others in order to take them closer to their final destination. Hitch-hiking for goods becomes a reality!

 

Why bother stopping to load / unload?!

What form of compensation could be developed to make the system economically viable? One possibility might be financial remuneration calculated on a pro-rata basis, based on the tonnes-km of each driver. Or maybe remuneration in kind, with a service selected by the driver. For example, if I carry tinned goods for a large supermarket, I receive a number of points on my account that I can use to buy foodstuffs, cultural goods, insurance, etc.   All my credit points will be added to my profile in the “hitch-hiking for goods” app.

Why bother changing the current system?

What benefits would the system bring for retail chains? They could make savings in terms of costs of course, as well as building closer ties with part of their customer base and attracting new customers: motorists who stop off at the shop to deliver goods (rather than driving past without stopping) and find themselves in the store with an empty car boot… ready to be filled!

We still have to present the business case: let’s talk about it!

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