Understanding the Benefits, Challenges, and Opportunities Related to Changes in Consumer Shopping and Last‐Mile Delivery

Research Team: Miguel Jaller (lead), Jean-Daniel Saphores, and Michael Hyland

UC Campus(es): UC Davis, UC Irvine

Problem Statement: The rapid growth of e‐commerce and has had significant impacts on the way consumers shop and on the logistics behind delivering the products they order. This shift has resulted in significant changes for retail as well as for business-to-business, business-to-consumer, and consumer-to-consumer distribution. Overall, supply chain structures have been modified to allow for the efficient flow of goods to satisfy the needs of today’s rapid delivery services. This project focuses on the end of the distribution process–the last mile–where changes in consumer shopping behaviors have resulted in changes in related travel behaviors. When California developed its Sustainable Freight Action Plan, it missed an opportunity to consider the relevance of the last mile distribution and e‐commerce segment. The last two years have demonstrated how important this segment is, not only for the economy, but also for delivering much‐needed goods to the people. This growing segment is stressing local infrastructure and generating congestion, pollution, and other negative effects. At the same time, it is the segment that could help the state’s decarbonization efforts because its characteristics may offer opportunities for the introduction and use of cleaner technologies.

Project Description: This project will evaluate the success of innovative and emerging last mile technologies and services in responding to changes in demand. It will also quantify the role of these services in reducing the environmental footprint of last mile logistics. This study leverages the extensive work conducted by the research teams at the Universities of California, Davis and Irvine on freight modeling in general, and on e‐commerce and consumer behavior in particular. Building on this past work, this research will explore the benefits and drawbacks of new technologies and innovations in last mile distribution operations and investigate what innovations, regulations, and infrastructure changes are needed to contend with changes in shopping and travel behavior. The team will synthesize the findings of the previous research and integrate the results into new rounds of simulation and optimization modeling while paying particular attention to key inputs. Researchers will also identify gaps in the modeling efforts and establish the unanswered questions, e-commerce- and travel-related issues, and policies that existing methodologies cannot address. Finally, the team will evaluate the system and regulatory requirements conducive to the best performance and compare them to existing conditions.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $85,000