There’s no doubt about it, in many parts of the world, ecommerce has significantly changed our towns and cities. Whilst it may have led to a reduction of the numbers of people walking down the high streets of towns and cities in many countries, the same can’t be said for their roads. In the UK, a new report investigating the growth in the number of vans on its roads has found that whilst the growth of ecommerce and online shopping may have reduced traffic congestion on the UK’s roads, an increase in the number of next day delivery vans has cancelled out this benefit.
Statistics from the RAC Foundation indicates that there are now approximately 3.7 million vans on the UK’s roads, with around 150,000 of these involved in delivering online orders to customers. However, what is most interesting is that whilst these vans represent a relatively small percentage of the total number of vans on the UK roads, these small number of vehicles actually make up for 10 per cent of the overall mileage of all vans on the road.
This means that whilst there may be fewer cars on the road thanks to people choosing to forego going to their local shopping malls and town centres, it means that more and more people are choosing to shop online. And when you order goods online… they have to be delivered. As ecommerce companies find themselves operating in increasingly competitive markets, to quench their users thirst for goods, more and more are offering next day delivery, adding to the density of traffic on the United Kingdom’s roads.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, the leading UK motoring charity said:
“Plenty of people suggest the surge in van traffic is down to our rapidly deepening love affair with online shopping. But this research suggests sofa surfers might be helping to ease our traffic congestion woes. Overall, the implications for our roads could be positive, where several car shopping trips are replaced by one van delivering to multiple households, though there is an issue where personal goods are being delivered to city centre offices through already congested streets.
“Meantime, the question of why there are so many more vans is still a puzzle. Could it be the product of more small businesses and sole traders investing in vans and then using them both as a work tool and for family transport?”
Perhaps the UK and other countries will not see any form of decrease in van traffic until other forms of delivery methods can be developed. Amazon has trialled its Prime Air drone delivery service in the UK but it may be years before we see autonomous aerial delivery being a viable and common way to have goods delivered.