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Article publié le 19 January 2022 par Tariel CHAMEROIS, Directeur RSE / Développement Durable et Livraison urbaine Cluster France-Maghreb DB Schenker France

In today’s world, marked by an environmental and climate crisis, consumption patterns are evolving and urban delivery is a concept that is mentioned more and more often. Today, urban delivery can correspond to different types of flows that may have several uses and that are managed either by general operators or by specialist third parties (private individuals or companies, in their own name or for others, fast deliveries such as home deliveries, cold chain logistics, and many others). Nevertheless, we have to try to provide an approximate definition of the term “urban delivery”. This term could be defined as last mile logistics or the provision of any goods transport service, from reception, storage and order picking to delivery to companies and private individuals in urban areas.

Today, in France, according to the Regional health agency (ARS), 48,000 people die every year due to air pollution, mainly because of the nitrogen oxides emitted by traffic. Barbara Pompili, the Minister for Ecological Transition, estimates that the implementation of the Low Emission Mobility Zone (ZFE-m) in Ile-de-France could save 6,600 lives per year. As a result, the “Climate and Resilience” law passed this summer provides for the extension of Low Emission Mobility Zones to all towns with more than 150,000 inhabitants by the end of 2024. Access to these zones will require a Crit’Air sticker, which will act as a mobility pass. Whether it is air pollution or other environmental nuisances, there is not one solution but many.

The health and climate crises have been cathartic and have demanded a paradigm shift, notably with regards to the view espoused by the famous American economist, Milton Friedman, who wrote in 1970 in the NYT Magazine that the responsibility of business is to increase its profits.

DB Schenker and all companies in the freight transport sector have to face up to enormous challenges and constraints that are:

  • environmental (reduction of CO2e emissions connected to transport, noise pollution, traffic congestion, restriction of delivery spaces, introduction of Low Emission Zones),
  • economic (steep rise in volume due to e-commerce, rising fuel prices and expensive spaces and facilities to reduce breaks of load),
  • and social in nature (decline in the attractiveness of driving as an occupation, labour shortage, pressure of tighter deadlines and safety of goods).

According to Centre d’analyse stratégique no. 274 of April 2012, for the renewal of urban logistics,

urban freight represents, on average, 20% of traffic, 30% of road occupancy and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions.” In addition, France was fined €10 million by the Council of State last August for failing to bring pollution levels in line with health standards. This penalty followed a formal notice in 2009 and an initial ruling in 2017 regarding the insufficient action taken in the fight against air pollution to bring concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particles (PM10) below the limit values (cf. European directive of 2008 on air quality).

Before taking over responsibility for the CSR and Sustainable Development Department at DB Schenker France, where I manage our “last mile” delivery, particularly in urban areas, I was the Quality, Health, Safety and Environment Manager at head office. I was also the Product Manager Land Transport at DB Schenker for 15 years and, in a previous life, I was a truck driver in Sweden. So we can say that I have a relatively good understanding of the different aspects of this business and specific opinions on this matter.

Faced with these challenges, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, Deputy Minister for Ecological Transition in charge of Transport, welcomed in 2020 the fact that “the transport sector made a major contribution during the Covid-19 crisis by maintaining the delivery of products necessary for the economy, ensuring the continuity of the supply chain for the population, delivering masks or providing essential solutions for people who needed to get to work, and even by transporting coronavirus patients on a medicalised high-speed train.” During his hearing on the afternoon of 23 April 2020 before the Sustainable Development Committee, he also felt that “the Covid-19 crisis could be a catalyst for decarbonising the transport sector.”

Since 1998 and the implementation of an ISO 14001 certification process for our transport and logistics activities, and the integration of the ecoTransIT World tool, DB Schenker has been rewarded for its efforts to continuously improve its organisation and methods that benefit the environment, and to introduce more eco-responsible deliveries by using less polluting modes of transport:

The Technology

Accelerated innovation, development and adoption of these new systems at DB Schenker.

DB Schenker has decided to partner with the start-up K-Ryole, winner of the 2018 “Grand Prix de l’Innovation” in the “Energy and Mobility” category (awarded by the city of Paris), for having developed a “smart” electrically-assisted trailer which allows a bicycle to tow 250 kg of freight effortlessly. With the financial and human support of our teams, K-Ryole is developing a new electrically-assisted trailer, “K-Ryole Pallet”, which can carry more than 350 kg of goods behind any bicycle. On the new trailer, the batteries are removable and can be recharged independently of the trailer. Replacing batteries on a round means that the bicycle’s range is no longer restricted. One battery offers a range of approximately 40 km and it takes four hours to recharge the battery. Range is therefore defined by the number of batteries available. These initial trailers only comprise one battery slot (the battery has to be changed to exceed a range of 40 km). Eventually, it will be possible to connect two batteries simultaneously to achieve a range of 80 km without having to change the batteries. This trailer has two drive wheels of 1,500 W each. This model will be manufactured in France and has been tested by our partner Les Triporteurs de l’Ouest since 2 November 2021 to carry out its last-mile operations comprising heavy loads.

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We currently operate eVélo-Cargo in 17 city centres (Rennes, Nantes, Bordeaux, Angers, Saint Malo, Strasbourg, Montpellier, Pau, La Rochelle, Tours, Vannes, Lille, Le Touquet, Clermont-Ferrand, Chartres, Lorient and Nice) and plan to launch in Lyon on 15 November 2021, Grenoble in the first quarter of 2022 and, finally, Paris and Toulon in 2022. As a reminder, distribution is carried out by Triporteurs de l’Ouest using an electric three-wheel scooter made by Urban Arrow in Amsterdam and a professional trailer from FlexiModal attached to the rear hub of the bike.

Artificial intelligence / big data on urban freight data

DB Schenker has decided to join forces with the Production systems, logistics, transport organisation and work laboratory (SPLOTT) of the Planning, mobility and environment (AME) department of the former French institute for transport science and technology, planning and networks (ex-Ifsttar) of Université Gustave Eiffel, to study the optimisation of freight transport in urban areas in order to reduce the total distance travelled and the duration of urban rounds, and to promote the sustainable development of society.

We are at a moment of truth. The UN has published an alarming report on the climate. Global warming is heading towards 2.7 degrees if we do nothing. The 1.5-degree target seems to be out of reach without concrete action.

Cities are gradually banning combustion engines, considered to be too polluting. Today, electric is seen as the solution to fight air pollution. In Europe, several hundred cities now forbid combustion-engine vehicles. In Copenhagen/Oslo, diesel vehicles are banned. In Brussels, Euro 3 and older cars, i.e. those registered before 2006, have been banned since 1 January 2020. In Paris/Barcelona, cars registered more than 20 years ago cannot be used during the week or during the day. In London, drivers of petrol cars generally manufactured before 2006 (Euro 4 standard) and diesel vehicles generally manufactured before 2015 (Euro 6 standard) have to pay £12.50 (€14.80) per day to enter the Low Emission Zone. Trucks and coaches have to pay £100 (€116) per day.

To go further, in July 2021, the European Commission put forward a climate plan called “Fit for 55”, which aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 and to achieve zero carbon emissions from cars by 2035. This will put an end to the sale of petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles. The era of combustion engine cars is over: it is time to make room for 100% electric.

As I stated in the introduction, there is not one solution but many. Relying exclusively on electricity could be considered to be complacent. The aim of reducing CO2 by 55% by 2030 and by 100% by 2050 compared to 2019 would mean not a reduction in, but the end of fossil fuels, and a transition will only be possible if we multiply our efforts by a factor of three or even five, according to Jean-François Julliard, Executive Director of Greenpeace France.

Agnès Michel, a member of the Terra Nova Editorial Committee, rightly pointed out that today, in 2021, we do not have the capacity to switch all fossil fuels to electricity with the current volume of energy consumption. Nor is degrowth the solution. Eric Chaney, Institut Montaigne economic advisor, pointed out that in the United States, per capita energy consumption has fallen by 15% over the last 20 years, while per capita GDP has increased by 25% over the same period. In the language of sustainablility, this is the concept of “decoupling”, namely, the economy grows without increasing the burden on the environment.

DB Schenker’s innovation is based on retrofitting vehicles with electric batteries or hydrogen, thereby contributing to local employment and the circular economy.


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