Piloting better road transport

An overview of how the EU-funded Straightsol project which is trialing new systems and solutions in a series of pilots for improved city transport, with a focus on better, safer and more efficient parcel and freight delivery.

Urban transport remains a growing concern for people living and working in cities. Traffic jams generate air pollution and noise, increase safety risks, and cause human frustration and stress. In economic terms, inefficient transport represents a waste of time and loss of productivity. In 2013, Brussels, researchers, policy-makers, business people and interested citizens got an up-close look at some possible solutions on the occasion of the Straightsol workshop. The EU-funded Straightsol project is carrying out a number of pilot studies in major European cities, all aimed at alleviating the urban crush and improving the lives of city dwellers. Participants at the workshop and demonstration in Brussels heard from leaders of three of those pilot studies, including a major parcel handler and two large supermarket chains.

Mobile depot

Parcel deliverer TNT Express explained the company’s new ‘mobile depot’ system. A large freight trailer is driven into the city and parked in a strategic location each morning. It then feeds individual three-wheeled, electric-motor-assisted pedal vehicles that take parcels to their final destinations. At the end of the day, these tricycles return to the trailer with parcels to be shipped back out and the trailer is picked up and returned to the company’s central depot. The aim is to reduce the number of mid-sized vans driving through the city. But a key part of the pilot study will be to measure the actual results. Data will be collected over the trial period to quantify the impact of the mobile-depot scheme in terms of trips taken, fuel saved, etc.

Straightsol coordinator, Jardar Andersen of Norway’s Institute of Transport Economics, explained the importance of quantification. He said the problems of urbanization were still getting worse and that the measures that have been tried in the past have not been appropriately evaluated. For this reason, data collection and analysis has been made a key priority for the pilot studies. In order to provide better tools for evaluation, Straightsol will do a complete assessment of all the demonstrations, and this data will then be made available to other researchers and transport planners in other cities.


Loading and unloading of heavy vehicles is a central issue for urban transport stakeholders. Vans and trucks are a major contributor to slowdowns and bottleneckks in narrow, inner-city streets.

Two major supermarket chains in Belgium, Colruyt and Delhaize, are testing new off-peak and night-time delivery schemes under the Straightsol project. Colruyt said they believe they can help save fuel, improve safety, and reduce congestion and pollution by carrying out more deliveries outside of working hours. The key issue then becomes noise. So for the scheme to work, Colruyt says it is installing sound insulation inside trailers, using ‘silen’ palette trucks and installing covered loading and unloading docks at our supermarkets. All of this is aimed at reducing noise and making night delivery more feasible.

The Delhaize supermarket chain is testing a similar scheme to spread deliveries out across the day to reduce noise and the added congestion. They also are addressing issues by specific planning such as avoiding delivery times when children are walking to and from school.

Training for truck drivers is another key focus for the supermarket chains, and both agree that consultation with the authorities is vital – drawing on the integrated Straightsol approach, involving authorities at all levels, with strict attention paid to environmental restrictions and other regulations.