Peel-backed freight center looks to keep cargo moving

by John Tenpenny

(Left to right) Matthew Roorda, chairman of the Smart Freight Centre; Rhonda Lenton, president and vice chancellor; York University; Nando Iannicca, chairman of the Region of Peel; and Leonard Waverman, dean of McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business.

BRAMPTON, Ont. – About $1.8 billion worth of goods are trucked to, from, and through Ontario’s Peel Region on a given day. And its regional government hopes an emerging Smart Freight Centre will lead to strategies that can keep shipments on the move throughout the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

Over the next five years, the Region of Peel will support the center with $240,000 in annual seed money to be matched with cash and in-kind contributions from McMaster University, University of Toronto, and York University.

The plan is to break down silos when it comes to addressing shared concerns, including customer expectations for shorter delivery times and the growth of e-commerce; the effects of congestion; decreasing labor force availability and growing industry expectations; emissions from the transportation sector; and strategies to address the pressures of population and employment growth.

“The mandate of the Smart Freight Centre aligns completely with the work of U of T’s Transportation Research Institute, bringing together the expertise of transportation researchers from a broad range of diverse disciplines with our partners in industry and government to ready us for the opportunities and challenges of 21st century mobility,” said institute director Eric Miller. “These projects are about much more than research papers and academic journals — they’re about solving real, on-the-ground problems.”

Some of the projects to be conducted during the first year include an off-peak delivery pilot study, truck-friendly lane measures and strategies, and an e-commerce strategy to investigate the impact of online shopping on logistics.

An off-peak delivery pilot has been underway since February and is being conducted in partnership with Loblaw, Walmart, and the LCBO, according to Matthew Roorda, chairman of the Smart Freight Centre and a professor of civil and mineral engineering at the University of Toronto.

Based on similar experiences in other cities such as New York, Barcelona, and San Paulo, Brazil, Roorda said the pilot, using 14 retail outlets, is shifting deliveries from congested times in the middle of the day to less congested periods in the evening or early-morning hours.

“We believe it benefits everybody,” Roorda said at the official launch event for the Smart Freight Centre. “You can reduce the number of trucks on the road during the congested periods, but you can also save travel time and save emissions. We see it as a win-win situation.”

Currently, Roorda’s group is gathering and analyzing GPS data from trucks involved in the pilot and monitoring their performance differences between the different delivery times.

“The initial pilot period is six months,” said Roorda, “But hopefully we’ll see no reason to revert back if it’s going well.”

Lessons learned, as expected, include the fact that travel times are better in the evening, but Roorda said there are other benefits being realized by the companies.

“It happens at the stores themselves. In some cases the staff are less busy in the evenings, so they can unload the truck a little faster.”

While each institution will have its own area of interest, “We all have an interest in city logistics, looking at operations in very congested areas and looking at ways to solve some of those really challenging problems in urban areas like congestion and parking,” said Roorda.

“There are a lot of opportunities for trying out new technologies and experimenting with some of those different ways of operating in a very congested area.”



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