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Apr 21

The Sharing Economy’s Warm Embrace Of Logistics

green logisticsUber, Air BnB, Vinted and Doddle – a stranger on your street can now drive you somewhere, let you stay in their spare room and even buy your wedding dress, all thanks to the Sharing Economy. And soon you may be able to add delivering your parcel to the list, a service which will not just be convenient, but could also lead to a reduction in pollution and increase in community spirit.

Parcel firm Doddle specialises in allowing your goods to be delivered to locations around areas like Universities, train stations and shops. You can then pick your goods up on your return commute from work, or vice-versa, getting rid of the hassle of having to stay in all day just to accept a parcel from a courier.

Last year Doddle trialled ‘local agents’, locally employed people to deliver parcels, an idea that has been floated by Amazon and other retailers. CEO Tim Robinson described the move as a chance for people ‘to get involved in their communities and play a vital role.’ Although the trial has not become a reality, it does beg the question – can the sharing economy offer a new direction for logistics?

The sharing economy allows individuals who own something useful, like a spare room or a car, to essentially lease that property out to be used by others. It offers a new form of income for people who need it, and a very cheap way to operate a business model. This mode of business does not bode well for international delivery, unless you know a person with a plane, but it could be a solution to the final-mile stage of residential delivery.

Traditional logistics companies like DHL, UPS and FedEx are plagued by the last mile of delivery – the final drop-off point at your front door. It’s expensive, inefficient and counter-productive, the three things an industry obsessed with precision timing and efficiency despises. It can also be inconvenient for customers who have to take a day off from work just to accept the parcel when it arrives. By enabling others to do it on behalf of the courier company at a time when normal drivers would be going home, would dramatically lower the cost, but it doesn’t come without risk.

Could this be an old solution to a new problem? We are already seeing a huge increase in the use of click-and-collect access points, with some experts believing their use to double by 2025 – but what about home delivery?

It could work like this: The courier company charged with transporting your newly purchased item from the retailer to your front door will instead take it from the shop and deliver it an urban hub, or depot. From here, a person who may now be working as a full time teacher, part time delivery driver, in their Ford Mondeo, will come along and pick up all the parcels meant for his or her street. The driver will then be paid per parcel they deliver. Simple.

There is a risk trusting people not to steal or tamper with your parcel while it is mid-transit. Will the parcel also be insured? And how can you track it? What if you don’t trust the person who has nominated themselves on your street to be the driver? Can you petition against their appointment? Doddle used a local manager system to oversee its local agents, and Uber uses city-wide managers to monitor its drivers – something similar could be established.

The biggest pool of people that this would apply to is the already employed Uber drivers who are in need of more daytime business. Uber have already enabled a delivery option, UberRUSH, which has been credited by experts as an industry disrupting development for a very stagnated market. They already have the eager drivers, the GPS technology and tracking systems – it’s a match made in a sharing heaven.

The sharing economy is slowly making its way into most industries, and logistics could really benefit from it. The last mile of delivery is both a pain for the drivers as it is for the customers – this could be the solution. While many struggle to see drones managing to fill the gap anytime soon, especially in urban areas, localised drivers wanting to earn some more cash could be the option needed to make this old, clunky system convenient again.

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