A large-scale trial to help entrench micromobility last-mile delivery services in Australian cities is on track to begin in Sydney in October.
The three-month trial will aim to identify obstacles to widespread adoption of e-bike last-mile delivery services in Australia and set benchmarks that encourage the changes needed to foster the sector, according to pilot coordinator and experienced courier industry member Patrick Ibrahim.
“It will be an exercise in research and analytics into the feasibility of ongoing business models for last-mile deliveries,” according to Patrick, who is the CEO of parcelrun, a Sydney-based micromobility courier delivery business launched in February.
“The pilot will help establish benchmarks and frameworks that are specific to Australia, so we no longer have to refer to international data we’ve relied on so far.
“We are famous in Australia for saying ‘it doesn’t work here, we’re different’.”
He said parcelrun is well advanced in its discussions with several potential partners – including e-cargo bike and light electric vehicle manufacturers and distributors, e-bike share and subscription providers, and logistics companies – to conduct the trial.
It is also working closely with City of Sydney council for the pilot, which is proposed to occur within a roughly 5km radius of the city’s CBD, from The Rocks to Redfern and across to Glebe.
Earlier this month, the trial organisers signed a memorandum of understanding with Transport for NSW to utilise the State department’s freight hub in the city, and it has the backing of cycling advocacy groups We Ride Australia and Bicycle NSW.
“As part of the pilot’s research focus, we’re talking with the Institute of Transport and Logisistics at Sydney University to hopefully get them to conduct all the research and analytics once we gather the data,” Patrick said.
“Having the institute on board will give the research and analytics legitimacy to push for positive legislation and investment that will assist the sector.”
He said the pilot will have a high level of transparency, for further legitimacy, including a website specifically for the trial that will enable people to view the number of parcels delivered, total distances covered by the courier services and the level of emission reductions achieved by shifting deliveries away from vans and trucks.
“The site will enable people to feel engaged and involved in the pilot and it will showcase how transparent we are being across the board,” Patrick said.
The project coordinators were also adamant the pilot should be held in the months leading up to Christmas.
“We want it to be in the busiest time of the year, when all freight and courier companies struggle to get freight to customers’ doors. We don’t want there to be any opportunity for people to brush off the data and say the outcomes were gained during quieter periods,” he said.
The pilot partners look set to include a number of major retailers who have participated in similar trials overseas and are keen to direct their to patronage to the Sydney trial to show how last-mile micromobility can work in Australia.
“Everyone involved has been very optimistic and encouraging about it and has been very open in discussions. We all want to see this succeed and be able assess the data,” he said.
“We looking for six to eight pilot partners in total, and each will bring something different to the pilot.”
30 Years of Logistics Experience
parcelrun is a collaboration of several partners with a total of more than 30 years’ experience in the last-mile delivery and logistics and sectors.
While its main activity since inception has been e-bike battery replacement services, it was established to ultimately move into micromobility last-mile delivery.
It aims to go beyond existing e-bike courier services in Australia to become a genuine replacement for van deliveries, complete with a network of micro hubs for freight delivery and collection, and full digital integration through platforms such as Shippit.
Patrick said parcelrun does not intend to profit from the trial and will instead forward the parcel delivery fees – beyond its own costs – to the trial partners making the deliveries.
“Our goal is just testing the feasibility of these services,” he said.
“The change is inevitable. The vehicles and other hardware that have come online during the past five years make this feasible, and 40% of consumers are asking for more sustainable products and more sustainable ways of doing business.
“Micromobility for last-mile deliveries are also in line with State and Federal government goals for emission reduction, and the City of Sydney’s cycling plan and electrification action plan.
“But while we’re seeing last-mile delivery success stories coming out of Europe and the UK, Sydney and Melbourne haven’t really acted to get on board.
“Places like in New Hampshire, in New York, have allocated loading zones specifically for cargo bike deliveries, whereas Sydney and Melbourne hasn’t shown the same level of support.
“It’s about time we in Australia start putting real frameworks and processes in place to achieve similar success.”