Road Network Operations
& Intelligent Transport Systems
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Freight and delivery Operations

Operations and Fleet Management as a section is at the very heart of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations. They can be defined as advanced systems aimed at simplifying and automating freight and fleet management operations at the institutional level. It is here that ITS, thus far, has had the biggest impact. This is particularly pronounced in terms of cost.

Fleet management covers the whole gamut of services, from the acquisition of vehicles, their day-to-day operation and maintenance, through to their disposal. It is beneficial to break this down further, into five areas:

  • routing and scheduling systems
  • just-in-time delivery (and the impacts this has on the operation of vehicles)
  • automatic vehicle locator/computer aided dispatch
  • on-board monitoring and telematics
  • electronic payment.

Many of these activities inter-relate and should not be looked at in isolation. In particular, the hardware required is often similar (usually being based on the use of GPs-enabled vehicle location sensors), with the software making the differentiation between the different categories.


In order to optimise returns, it is essential that the freight and commercial vehicle sector utilises its assets efficiently in the collection and delivery of freight. This often means aiming to ensure full loads and high vehicle utilisation and requires an understanding of the different patterns of freight movements.


Fleets within this sector, often operating in urban environments, undertake a broad mix of task types:
  • firstly, there are well-telegraphed or repetitive events such as making regular deliveries or recurring collections for repeat or long-term customers
  • secondly, there are demand-responsive events, where the requirements are not known beforehand so the fleet needs to be deployed and routed (or re-routed) in real time in order to adequately respond
  • most often trips are a combination. This is often further complicated by the addition of time-pressure in terms of tight delivery windows or traffic restrictions on urban operations at certain times of the day

Freight Distribution Centres

The urban environment is also at the forefront of a broader change. Aware of the problems of deliveries and logistics within cities in terms of vehicle size and time restrictions, several cities are trialling “Freight Distribution Centres” or “Freight Consolidation Centres” (FDC or FCCs). Here the larger, inter-urban delivery vehicles unload so that smaller shipments can be consolidated and delivered by smaller, environmentally friendly, vehicles. With fewer vehicles delivering to congested city centres, pollution, congestion and vehicle conflicts should all be reduced. The FCC can also offer a range of related services such as storage, sorting and recycling collection.

Whilst FCCs have been successful in some instances (such as the Broadmead Shopping Centre in Bristol in the UK, Bremen in Germany and Aalborg in Sweden) they require extensive cooperation between carriers, shippers and customers. Furthermore, outside of individual, small developments, there are yet to be trialled on a true city-wide basis. The coordination required and logistical challenges posed by broadening consolidation centres to entire regions has to be overcome. As the number of stakeholders and shipments increase so do the complexity of operations. Any software solutions that assist in scheduling will play a significant role in any growth of FCCs.


Full-load carriers and container transportation companies experience a different range of logistical challenges. Demands for empty vehicles tend to arrive dynamically and are difficult to forecast - and may require acceptance/refusal within a very short time window. Yet the supply of a suitable vehicle, tractor or crew is limited by their previous task and any scheduled future requirement. Each decision has an impact upon the future decisions that can be taken - and so, on the long-term efficiency and profitability of the operation. Longer distance freight movements have a high level of complexity. They are often affected by both:

  • the same problems as those experienced by shorter-distance urban operators (tight delivery windows; time-based origin/destination traffic restrictions)
  • and additional constraints associated with the long-time horizons involved in inter-urban journeys – such as driving hour restrictions in Europe


This is usually classified as the shipment of goods from a production site (a quarry for example) to a manufacturer. Another example would be an overseas freight load arriving at a port before being moved to the national depot for sorting. The type of vehicle used on this type of work tends to be 40 tonne gross vehicle weight articulated vehicles with a maximum payload of around 25 tonnes.


This is also called “trunking”, the movement of goods from a national distribution centre or transport hub to smaller, regional centres. This is often the case with large logistics and courier firms such as DHL, Fed Ex and UPS.


This is the local distribution of goods from a distribution centre to the local or regional community. This tends to be done either on smaller freight vehicles to ensure they can deliver to the whole range of customers in the local area or occasionally on articulated vehicles to large local customers. It is in this area that Freight Consolidation/Distribution Centres play a strong role.
Reference sources

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