Effective regulation of the thriving last-mile delivery sector in Australian cities will come under the microscope when the University of Sydney hosts a free workshop, Micro-freight: Sustainable (or not) Last-Mile Delivery Solutions, later this month.
What was expected to be a relatively small gathering of industry, government and academic delegates has grown into a larger forum, stoked by a growing need to better manage the sector, according to the organiser and University of Sydney Professor of Transport Management, Stephen Greaves.
“Hopefully people are thinking futuristically in how they can accommodate this sector with complementary regulation.”
“We’ve had a huge increase in last-mile deliveries, particularly in the centre of Sydney, using bikes, e-bikes and now even scooters – people roaming the streets with backpacks delivering items,” he said.
“It is something that has evolved and governments are now reacting to see how they can manage this.
“Hopefully the adopted solutions aren’t heavy-handed regulation, which is often the response by government. Hopefully people are thinking futuristically in how they can accommodate this sector with complementary regulation.”
More than 40 people have so far registered for the workshop, being held at the university’s Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies in the Sydney CBD on Wednesday 24th May from 9am to 12.30pm.
Stephen said he was still keen to attract more industry members to participate.
“The issue of last-mile delivery is almost forcing our hand in Sydney because there are so many of these devices – half of which don’t meet existing regulations.”
While there has been a growing number of forums in Australia and global to promote and foster the micromobility sector, Stephen wonders if the unexpected popularity of his event was due to its emphasis on regulation.
He said micromobility freight, and its management by authorities, is an issue that has not been given the emphasis it requires in Australia.
“Similar forums tend to focus on the passenger side of things, such as the privatisation of e-scooters,” he added.
“But the issue of last-mile delivery is almost forcing our hand in Sydney because there are so many of these devices – half of which don’t meet existing regulations.
“While safety and compliance with regulations are central issues, and will be key talking points at the workshop, it will be a disaster if we just regulate the hell out of the industry and lose the benefits it can bring.
“We need to think about the regulation of vehicles within the context of what they’re being used for.”
Presenters at the workshop include representatives of the food delivery sector and the companies that supply their vehicles, as well as inner-Sydney local government, Transport for NSW, Micromobility Report owner Phil Latz and academics from University College London, the University of Sydney and Monash University.
But Stephen said the input of academics will be secondary to the exercise of bringing industry and regulators together.
His own presentation will incorporate case studies from London to “show how they have moved on from the heavy-handed ‘you can’t do this’ approach to complementary policies that allow the sector to thrive.
He expects discussions to also address how Australia’s classifications of micromobility vehicles needs to catch up with adaptation in Europe and the UK.
“Classifications in Australia are quite narrow and we don’t even legislate for quadricycles, which are a critical part of the micromobility movement in Europe,” he said.
“One of the appeals of these vehicles is you don’t need a licence or insurance, and that’s attractive for someone without a licence who’s working in the gig economy.
“However, classifications raise the question of whether we should be treating them as a vehicle that requires registration and a licence. Along with that comes the issue of insurance.
“These are the things we will be discussing and I expect there will be a lot of different opinions. For some areas, I expect there will be some agreement to disagree and hopefully with others, people can find common ground.
“From an academic point of view, I’m hoping these conversations identify areas requiring research , as well as areas of policy and regulation that need to be addressed.”
While registration for the workshop is free, participants need to sign up at the event’s registration webpage. There is no option to attend the workshop online.