Sustainable city logistics

How PostNL reduces the pressure on city centres

Through its city logistics initiative, PostNL is looking to take the next step in making logistics in the Netherlands more sustainable.

Sustainable solutions for city centres

PostNL wants to be in the vanguard of sustainable logistics. Single-item parcels, typically addressed to consumers, it delivers using its familiar parcel vans. PostNL delivery vehicles will be emission-free in 25 city centres by 2025. It also deploys light electric freight vehicles (LEFVs), including cargo bikes, to distribute business mail and parcels.

PostNL’s city logistics initiative aims to take logistics sustainability in the Netherlands a step further. After all, why make only parcel delivery to consumers more sustainable? Our City Logistics team helps companies to receive their goods-handling pallets and roll containers as sustainably as possible.

City hubs for combined business transport

Suzanne Debrichy, City Logistics Commercial Manager at PostNL, comments: “In a number of towns and cities we already have city hubs up and running. In The Hague, Nijmegen, Utrecht and Amersfoort we have joined forces with local logistics players, to set up city hubs at the edge of town. That’s where we bring together commercial items before ferrying them into town using electric trucks.

Suzanne’s remit is sustainable city logistics and she explains how this takes in a complex set of forces: “We’re collaborating with a whole host of local and country-wide players such as companies, councils and experts. This involves a lot of consultation to make sure we’re all on the same page. After all, the more players involved, the bigger our chances of success.

“In The Hague, for instance, business partner Djinny and PostNL now ensure that all central government facility flows are delivered sustainably, from printer paper to cleaning products. All these goods are delivered to the hub by a range of suppliers, after which we take them to their central government destinations in a single drop.”

From one hub to 220 locations

The city hubs have been very successful, Suzanne explains: “From The Hague’s hub we now deliver combined shipments to some 220 locations across town. And not just for central government, but also for the city council, a gaggle of ministries, and organisations such as Shell, TNO and Nationale Nederlanden. The big advantage for our customers is that they see fewer of our people in a day: a single deliverer on their doorsteps instead of several of them in the course of a day. It also means there are fewer vans criss-crossing town, and emission-free delivery is making our city air that bit cleaner.”

Less pressure on city centres

“Some 5–7% of logistics movements in city centres derive from the delivery of mail and parcels to consumers. Business logistics accounts for a great deal more traffic,” Suzanne notes. “And so we saw the creation of city hubs as an opportunity to help make cities more sustainable and reduce business logistics movements.”

The city of the future

“Meanwhile, we’re also looking at our deliveries to consumers. The number of orders is unlikely to fall any time soon and logistics is increasingly important. But how do we get all this stuff to city centres sustainably and nuisance-free? Those are issues we engage with on a daily basis.”

Climate-neutral across the city?

“Sustainable city logistics help us contribute to delivering on the Paris climate agreement,” Suzanne says. “We’re very aware of our impact as a logistics company and take responsibility for our actions. Councils do the same and are looking for solutions to create liveable city centres. By working closely with all parties involved, we can make whole cities more sustainable.”

New logistics hub in Leeuwarden

From May 2022, the Dutch city of Leeuwarden has its own logistics hub. “Leeuwarden is getting busier all the time and so is traffic, including business-to-business. At the same time, Leeuwarden wants to be an attractive, liveable and sustainable city with less nuisance caused by freight traffic. Our logistics hub at the edge of Leeuwarden combines the distribution of non-perishable office supplies for a number of companies. All orders are subsequently delivered by small electric vans,” says Suzanne Debrichy, City Logistics Commercial Manager with PostNL.

An initiative of Leeuwarden city council, Achmea, Rabobank, Leeuwarden province and PostNL’s City Logistics, this pilot aims to investigate whether a Leeuwarden logistics hub is feasible. It starts in May 2022 and will run until the end of the year.?