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The potential demand for a urban freight consolidation centre

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This paper reports the results of a stated-preference study aimed at investigating how transport decisions are made by receivers or by transport operators about the potential use of an urban freight consolidation centre in the city of Fano, Italy. Because there are no revealed preference data, a stated-choice methodology is used. The stated-choice experiments present two alternatives—one using a private vehicle subject to various traffic regulations and one using the urban freight consolidation centre with varying cost and efficiency levels. Conventional discrete choice data modelling shows that the potential demand is influenced mainly by the distance of the parking bay from the shop, by access permit cost, by the service cost of the urban freight consolidation centre, and by the delay in delivery time. Simulations are then performed to assess how the potential demand is affected by various incentives and regulations affecting urban goods distribution.

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  1. Generally the company taking the goods to the UFCC does not perform the final consignment. This implies the drafting, bargaining, and signing of yet another contract (with annexed responsibilities for delays, improper or lost consignments) and information exchange between the two companies.

  2. University of Westminster Report (2005) states that “some UFCC trials have been based on intuition rather than a quantified assessment and as a consequence are never likely to be viable”.

  3. Specific recommendations are: (a) cooperation and collaboration promotion among local transport operators that can potentially become UFCC users so to overcome the pre-existing competition mechanisms; (b) promotion of urban transport demand integration agreements (e.g. retailers belonging to the same or similar supply chain) so to designate specific days or time windows within which to perform final consignment thus rationalising the productive process; (c) adoption of competitive regulation thus facilitating UFCC operations; (d) agreeing and sharing with the interested agents the traffic regulatory policies considered more appropriate for sustaining a urban distribution reorganisation; (e) infrastructural interventions aimed at a greater UFCC accessibility both outbound (e.g. links with railway networks) and inbound (e.g. reserved or priority lanes, dedicated parking bays); (f) warehousing facilities within the UFCC that could produce a convenient service at a lower price than central facilities; (g) low environmental impact vehicles used for last mile consignment; (h) last mile freight consignment and scrap retrieval (green logistic) managed by a single and centralised third-party consortium; (i) use of telematics and global positioning instruments to optimise fleet management.

  4. On this line of research an Italian case-study on Milan, by Da Rios and Gattuso (2003), has attempted to evaluate the acceptability of UFCCs by trying to understand the motivations behind the current low interest. They find that UFCCs are: (a) thought to be inadequate for organised large-scale distribution because they would imply highly fragmented and costly distribution; (b) thought to be interesting for small retailers, especially those that do not buy their supplies directly, but at the same time, however, do not want to pay for warehouse management; (c) considered positively by operators that are potentially interested in electronic commerce. The parametric estimates performed on the base of the stated preference interviews performed show that there is an overall negative perception of the implementation of a UFCC (−0.70) thus indicating a disutility associated with the presence of a UFCC (Da Rios and Gattuso 2003, p. 206).

  5. It is important to recall in this respect that direct forecasting or calculation of elasticities on the basis of a model estimated on SP data alone might prove ambiguous, because the scale of the SP coefficients might differ from RP (revealed preference) data. Stated preferences are more appropriate for calculating ratios of coefficients such as the value of time. Reliable forecasting would need RP data even if, in this case, we are not in a position to do so because there is no UFCC in Fano. For this aspect refer to Bradley and Daly (1992).

  6. “Around 50% of the interviewed declared not to use any sort of IT instrument. Those that use a computer utilise it to write letters and/or invoices or manage warehouse stocks. Very few use the internet to send e-mails.” D’Elia et al. (2004, p. 92, 93).

  7. Zero metres distance is unrealistic for legal parking but quite realistic in the case of illegal, double lane parking, not uncommon in Italian cities. It has been estimated that, for instance, in Cosenza, there is about 62% of irregular parking when considering freight distribution trips (D’Elia et al. 2004, p. 94).

  8. The University of Westminster Report (2005) quotes: an estimated 28% decrease in the total distance travelled (compared with not using a UFCC) in Tenjin, the central business district in Fukoaka in Japan, that is one of the most successful UFCC schemes so far; just a marginal reduction in total traffic mileage in the central business district of Kassel, Germany; a 12.7% reduction in vehicle journeys into the city centre of Bremen, Germany, one of the first schemes in operation; a 50% reduction in number of vehicles travelling into the city centre per day in Freiburg, Germany; a 37% reduction in the number of freight vehicles travelling in the historic centre of Siena, Italy.


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The authors acknowledge the essential help of Tiziano Bartoccioni in supervising the administration of the interviews and the help of Luna Baldelli and Luisa Giardini in administering the interviews. We would also like to thank Gerard de Jong, Jerome Massiani, Guido Paglione, Valerio Gatta, and Lucia Rotaris for reading a preliminary version of the paper and providing us with very useful comments and suggestions for future research. We also benefited from the suggestions of three anonymous referees. The usual caveats on the remaining mistakes apply.

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Correspondence to Edoardo Marcucci.

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Marcucci, E., Danielis, R. The potential demand for a urban freight consolidation centre. Transportation 35, 269–284 (2008).

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  • City logistics
  • Urban freight consolidation centre (UFCC)
  • Stated preference
  • Transport demand analysis
  • Urban goods distribution