Hermes UK and Ford look to expand sustainable courier service trial

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Vehicle manufacturer Ford and consumer delivery specialist Hermes are looking to expand their collaborative pilot of a sustainable courier service aimed at reducing the footprint of parcel deliveries in cities.

The partnership utilizes Ford’s smart ‘MoDe:Link’ multi-modal routing and logistics software to coordinate traditional delivery vans with pedestrian couriers, identifying safe locations for drivers to park within walking distance of multiple delivery addresses. From there, the final leg of the journey is completed on foot as couriers make deliveries to a mix of high-rise, business and residential buildings.

Couriers use a smartphone app that advises on the location of the van and shows the most economical routes and itinerary to deliver the parcels. The app integrates with Hermes’s tracking systems to ensure customers have real-time visibility of the status of their deliveries.

The overall system orchestrates the end-to-end journey for each parcel, ensuring that deliveries – whether on the first mile from the depot by road, or the last mile to the doorstep on foot – are as efficient and as sustainable as they can be. Initially focused on London, UK, Ford and Hermes say they are exploring the possibility of extending the pilot to further areas of the UK.

“Being smarter about how we deliver parcels in the future will enable carriers to operate more sustainably and efficiently – while delivering a better experience for customers,” said Tom Thompson, project lead, Ford Mobility. “Our trials with Hermes have shown how multi-modal deliveries can be scalable and effective, even during peak times of the year.”

The initiative was first launched in September 2020 by a team from the Hermes Innovation Lab across an area of Central London and was put to the test during one of the busiest times of the year for parcel deliveries.

Working through the Christmas peak, Hermes says the pilot service met unprecedented demand for home deliveries. Operating alongside a team of eight pedestrian couriers and located across three postcode (ZIP code) areas, two Ford Transit vans delivered the same number of parcels as six vans making conventional doorstep deliveries – and did so more quickly.

“We are exploring new delivery initiatives that can reduce emissions for the final-mile delivery as part of our commitment to sustainability, and to also be prepared for further incoming legislation in cities, such as ultra-low emission zones,” said Carl Lyon, COO at Hermes UK.

“In addition, this operating model is easy to scale up to meet the increasing demand for home delivery and opens up the courier work for a whole new workforce who no longer need to drive or own a vehicle.”

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he is responsible for content across UKI Media & Events' portfolio of websites while also writing for the company's print titles.

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