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The Green [Last] Mile
The "greening" of the shipping world and the tricky "last mile"
The Green [Last] Mile
The "greening" of the shipping world and the tricky "last mile"
November 14, 2019

We’ve been hearing a lot about that tricky “Last Mile”, and what options are being tested to cut the cost. But what about the “greening” of the shipping world? Turns out there are just about as many green alternatives as there are carriers – and more being tried all the time! Drones have gotten a lot of press, as have robots, so let’s take a look at the variety of human-driven wheeled vehicles appearing on streets around the world.

Four wheeled vehicles have been delivering packages for a long time – package cars, delivery vans, and postal jeeps have been common sights as long as most of us can remember. Look carefully at the seemingly familiar utility vehicles and you’ll start to see a growing number of them are powered by hybrid power, electricity, or natural gas instead of gasoline, bringing lower (or zero) emissions and quieter engines to both city centers and suburbs. It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first foray into electric vehicles for some carriers; UPS made electric-powered deliveries in the 1930’s! There are some smaller four wheelers out there, too. Watch for a Cubicycle, quadricycle, or eCargo bike, powered electrically, with or without human assistance. The Cubicycle has a retro look, while the eCargo bike would be at home in a science fiction movie.

Take away one wheel and you’ll find a range of tricycles, powered by electric motors, pedals, or a combination of both. Some protect the driver from rain and snow with a bubble-like canopy; others are open to the weather. Some designs look quite modern, but others may remind you of the old-fashioned ice cream carts that brought joy to the long summer days of childhood. Most tricycles have the advantage of being able to use bike paths or lanes to avoid the heaviest urban traffic while contributing little-to-no emissions or vehicle noise to the city environment.

Get down to basics, and there are variations on the bicycles used for deliveries before cars were an option. These are the classic two wheelers, some with an electric assist and others purely pedal-powered. They are nimble in city traffic, and produce no noise or emissions. And the drivers stay in great shape! For occasions when the bike-mounted carrier isn’t sufficient, you can even add a trailer (of course, the trailer does add 2 or 4 more wheels).

What comes after the two-wheelers? Is there a possibility of delivery unicycles? Somewhere in the world, there is a pizza delivery guy using a unicycle – it could spread, so keep your eyes open!
We’ve covered a sampling of the human-guided options for green [last] mile delivery, and there is a lot of variety in the various approaches to the challenge. There’s even more variation in the autonomous vehicles being tested and rolled out (okay, let’s just call them robots!). But that’s a topic for another day.

Lora Core
~ ConnectShip
Lora's college education includes studying psychology at Eastern New Mexico University and computer programming at Tulsa Community College. She went on to complete a BBA in MIS at the University of Tulsa.

Lora was employed for several years at Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, the last few as the Director of Admissions and Records. Lora spent the next 24 years at American Airlines / Sabre / EDS / Hewlett Packard, starting as a computer programmer and moving into project management. Lora worked for several years at Tulsa Stained Glass, teaching classes, developing and maintaining the website, and assisting the owner with assorted projects, before joining ConnectShip as a Senior Business Analyst in 2019.

Lora lives in Jenks, OK, with her husband, two children (21 and 18), and four cats. When she has spare time, Lora enjoys making stained glass items, throwing pots, and making jewelry. She is also a voracious reader of mysteries, science fiction, history, cereal boxes…whatever she can get hold of!