Road Network Operations
& Intelligent Transport Systems
A guide for practitioners!

You are here

Users and the Delivery Process

ITS helps both the public and private sectors fulfil their business objectives in supporting freight operations. The users and suppliers of “freight transportation” services have an interest in ensuring that deliveries are made in a manner which ensures that the goods arrive in the expected quality and quantity at the right time (often called OTIF - “On Time In Full”). They are usually broken down into three different types of category: shippers, carriers and consignees.


Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operators overarching objective is to reduce costs and improve profitability. ITS implementations help achieve this by improving the planning and delivery of freight services by providing:

  • support for the purchase and scheduling of transportation services
  • the ability to identify freight items and packages (of all sizes) as well as palettes and shipping containers to enable real-time tracking and comprehensive in-transit visibility of goods, enhancing service and security
  • improved quality of information flow within the supply chain
  • support for full evaluation of the freight moving process and to inform continuous improvement in customer service and cost performance


The public sector’s interest in relation to ITS in freight is the tools and information that help it to tackle areas of public concern, issues such as more efficient use of road space which can include use of electronic tolling to manage freight vehicle movements – as well as improved safety, security and law enforcement.

A better understanding of the supply chain complemented by ITS technology can provide the information that the public sector needs to achieve its objectives and develop appropriate freight policies and packages of support measures. Much of this information would have been prohibitive to acquire using traditional pre-ITS systems. An example is radio-frequency identification (RFID). RFID tags can reduce the staff resource required for toll collection; whilst analysis of RFID applications for electronic screening and credential administration help:

  • provide a more comprehensive understanding of the supply chain
  • ensure that dangerous or overly heavy loads which damage the public road network have less chance of proceeding unchallenged


Shippers, also occasionally termed ‘consignors’, are those that supply the freight to be transported. Key shippers would tend to be manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. Shippers are the customers of carriers.


Carriers provide the transportation services which will move the goods from the shipper to the consignee. This can be either through the provision of transport operations themselves or through contracting a third party to provide the actual “wheels on the road”. Carriers, such as truck fleets, may be independent firms that provide “for hire” services or they could be private fleets that are part of a large business that ships or receives cargo (sometimes termed “own account”).


Consignees are those to whom the shipment is sent - so there is a broad range of potential consignees from individuals, manufacturers and wholesalers to retailers. The shipper and the consignee can sometimes be within the same firm, as indeed, can the carrier. Consignees need to be assured that their deliveries will arrive on time and in a useable condition, a situation that is particularly vital in the context of the increase in “Just-in-Time” manufacturing. (See Just-in-Time)


ITS systems and applications have an impact throughout the delivery process in four main component areas


Areas such as scheduling systems have an effect on operations long before the vehicle leaves the depot. (See Routing and Scheduling Systems) Ensuring that the most efficient use of all assets: drivers, staff and vehicles, whilst also meeting the requirements of the client, can all be assisted through the use of ITS. For example, plotting a route to involve fewer junctions can save fuel, time and cost.

At an international level, the planning of a delivery is more complicated, as borders and customs clearance also need to be taken into account. Intelligent Transport Systems assist here too, through the uploading of papers electronically and various schemes to ease border crossings for commercial vehicles. (See Border Clearance)


If the vehicle’s location is known, along with its estimated arrival time, it is possible to have the goods ready for loading when the vehicle pulls in, rather than awaiting its arrival. This minimises vehicle turnaround time, enabling better utilisation of assets such as vehicle and driver time. ITS, through the use of vehicle booking systems, can assist through assigning loading slots to vehicles based on their current location and their likely arrival time, ensuring that all goods are ready to be loaded.

The physical loading of the vehicle, however is also an important part of the process. Ensuring that the weight is equally distributed across the bed of the vehicle, that the vehicle remains under any relevant weight restrictions and that, when being unloaded between multiple drops, will not become overweight on any individual axle. All can be supported through the use of computer models. (See Weight Screening)


The actual transport of the goods can be assisted through the use of ITS. Deliveries can be pre-routed, and goods, vehicle and driver can be monitored and re-routed to take account of any restrictions, disruptions or delays. (See On-board Monitoring and Telematics, Security, Routing and Scheduling Systems) This not only reduces congestion and emissions but improves reliability of deliveries.


Having delivered the goods, ITS can still play an important role. Any faults with the goods can be easily reported, and potential causes traced. This is particularly the case with items that require temperature control – the moment that temperatures change outwith the preset confines can be traced and the circumstances surrounding it investigated. Meanwhile, confirmation of delivery, receipt and payment can also all be handled electronically through the use of Personal Data Assistants (PDAs) allowing instant updates on the progress of the delivery round, any shortfall or problems with the delivery.

Furthermore, after unloading, and particularly with regard to urban delivery and Freight Consolidation Centres (FCCs), vehicles are able to reclaim used pallets and cages, sometimes assisted by asset tracking technology to return them to a central location, along with any waste or recycling generated, for onward shipment .This helps the number of trips and emissions since only one trip is required rather than two.

However, such time-based distinctions are not the only ones that are relevant. In addition to their benefits for those directly involved in the movement of any given piece of freight, the utilisation of ITS in the freight sector has wider benefits due to its safety implications. Be it with regard to hazardous materials, heavy truck maintenance or load and driver hour limitations, the opportunities to improve safety through ITS affect the driver and company as well as the public, with whom the vehicle interacts both on and off the transport network.


Reference sources

No reference sources found.