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January 13, 2019 7:15 PM, EST

Growth in Same-Day Delivery Set to Explode, Experts Say

WASHINGTON — Time-sensitive delivery is here to stay, and that will change methods of freight movement, said one expert speaking at the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting.

The changes will filter down to how and where companies locate their warehouses and major supply hubs, EDR Group CEO Peter Plumeau said.

Speeding up the new decision-making will be autonomous trucks, Plumeau told dozens of officials attending the Jan. 13 session at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

EDR Group CEO Peter Plumeau

EDR Group CEO Peter Plumeau by Jim Stinson/Transport Topics

Autonomous trucks and platoon systems will help freight companies reduce costs and limits on delivery time. It is likely the next generation of freight-hauling trucks will be safer and emit less pollution, Plumeau said.

The topic was smart initiatives and intelligent transportation applications for efficient and sustainable freight mobility, especially in urban areas and along the final mile of freight delivery.

One of the “explosive” changes in customer and distribution habits will be same-day delivery, something Plumeau said will cause companies to open more strategically located warehouses that don’t necessarily use trucks for final-mile delivery. Instead, they could use drones or vans.

But one constant need will be storage space. For every $1 billion in e-commerce sales, a company will need about 1.25 million square feet for warehousing, Plumeau said, citing CBRE, a commercial real estate services company.

To meet those needs for space, some firms are using an Airbnb-like approach to warehouse space. Plumeau said some companies are experimenting with asking property owners, from home owners to business owners, to hold packages for them until they can be delivered.

Plumeau called them “urban warehouses” and “micro” fulfillment centers.

The scramble already is on in Los Angeles, where Amazon has 15 warehouses just to accommodate “instant” or same-day delivery, according to Laetitia Dablanc, a professor at the French Institute for Transport Research at the University of Paris-East.

Dablanc said the growing demand in the United States and elsewhere for “instant delivery” will begin to impact urban planning.

Consumer behavior also is changing. Dablanc said 32% of Manhattan residents use a food delivery app once a week.

TRB’s 98th annual meeting, from Jan. 13 to Jan. 17, is a gathering of professionals in the transportation, policy, government, academia and private sectors.