Ten to fifteen years ago, many pundits were predicting that new technology would revolutionise the day-to-day job of the typical courier driver. Today, with the benefit of hindsight, those predictions are seen to have been over-optimistic. Yet there is little doubt that revolutionary change is on the way to the courier industry. Some examples of that are currently being displayed by the authorities in Greenwich. |
The History of the Electric Van
It is not widely known that the first electrical vehicles were operating on the streets of London in the 1880s during the reign of Queen Victoria. For most of the twentieth century, the battery-driven “milk float” was a common and appealing sight across the whole of Britain, as it hummed around delivering milk and other dairy produce to residential doorsteps.
As the century came to an end, it was eagerly anticipated that this long legacy of successful use would be hugely enhanced by the latest technology, and that would in turn prove to be the basis of a solution to our polluted roads and city streets.
Unfortunately, the economics of the position became much more problematic. The technological advances were less breathtaking in their pace than had been anticipated. The sluggish advancement of such technical solutions and business interest in the same, declined even further after the 2008 financial crises and subsequent economic stagnation.
On the plus side though, the London Borough of Greenwich is to be given great credit for commencing a trial of local deliveries using a fleet of entirely electrically powered vans. Tests have already shown that these are popular with with the public and the delivery or courier driver. The results of the trial will be watched with great interest.
Smarter Parking Days
Of arguably even more interest to the courier driver, is the decision by the Borough to install a number of smart parking bays.
The aim of the project is to install sensors which are able to detect whether or not a parking bay in a given location is empty. That is then signalled to an availability map (or app), meaning that the courier driver can drive directly into a parking space rather than spending lengthy periods of time driving around the streets trying to find one. The advantage here is not only time saved, but also a reduction in fuel consumption and therefore pollution.
Initiatives of the sort being run in Greenwich are not quite the explosion of ‘white hot technology’ forecast in the early years of the 21st century. Even so, they may be the most pragmatic way to move forward with such systems given the background economic realities of life.
For an average courier driver, it may still be some years before the wholesale availability of alternatively fuelled vehicles and high-tech electronic road aids make their full appearance. Even so, these small steps appear now to be leading inexorably towards a technological future for many segments of the courier industry.
Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day courier driver work in the express freight exchange industry. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.
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