Last mile (transportation)

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Bicycle sharing systems such as Washington‘s Capital Bikeshare have been cited as a way to alleviate the "last mile problem."

Last mile is a term used in supply chain management and transportation planning to describe the movement of people and goods from a transportation hub to a final destination in the home.[1]

Usage in distribution networks[edit]

The term "last mile" was originally used in the telecommunications field but has since been applied to supply chain management. Transporting goods via freight rail networks and container ships is often the most efficient and cost-effective manner of shipping. However, when goods arrive at a high-capacity freight station or port, they must then be transported to their final destination. This last leg of the supply chain is often less efficient, comprising up to 28% of the total cost to move goods. This has become known as the "last mile problem."[2][3] The last mile problem can also include the challenge of making deliveries in urban areas. Deliveries to retail stores, restaurants, and other merchants in a central business district often contribute to congestion and safety problems.[2][4]

A related last mile problem is the transportation of goods to areas in need of humanitarian relief. Aid supplies are sometimes able to reach a central transportation hub in an affected area but cannot be distributed due to damage caused by a natural disaster or a lack of infrastructure.[5]

As e-commerce continues to become a growth engine for many brands, the last leg of delivery, ending up at the consumer's home or business, has become more challenging. Thanks to the Amazon Effect, consumers want more convenient options for fast, free delivery, putting pressure on other businesses to compete for the perfect delivery experience -- today, 84% of shoppers won't return to a brand that misses their delivery.[6] Unattended delivery has also become a significant issue among delivery companies like UPS, FedEx, USPS, DHL and others. Leaving a parcel unattended exposes the item(s) to weather, and to the increasing chance of theft by "porch pirates" (a person or persons who steal packages off of unsuspecting customers' porches or front door areas), making delivery experience management crucial for retailers who want to balance the costs of last mile delivery with customer satisfaction.[7] Retail companies like US based Amazon and China based Alibaba have researched and deployed drones for delivering goods purchased online to consumers.[8] Amazon has also set up lockers in some urban centers as a way of consolidating packages. Automated parcel delivery is becoming a popular option these days. Europe has led the way in this with Germany, Britain and Poland being the first markets for these services. In Taiwan, many online vendors offer the option of delivery to a convenience store of the customer's choice, for pickup from the store by the customer. Payment for the purchase at the store may also be offered.

The main challenges of last mile delivery include minimizing cost, ensuring transparency, increasing efficiency, making delivery frictionless and improving infrastructure.[9]

Usage in transportation networks[edit]

The Hiriko folding two-seat urban electric car was intended to be deployed in Germany in 2013 to provide the last mile of the journey to Deutsche Bahn's railway customers to their final destinations.[10]

"Last mile" has also been used to describe the difficulty in getting people from a transportation hub, especially railway stations, bus depots, and ferry berths, to their final destination. When users have difficulty getting from their starting location to a transportation network, the scenario may alternatively be known as the "first mile problem."[11] These issues are especially acute in the United States where land-use patterns have moved jobs and people to lower-density suburbs that are often not within walking distance of existing public transportation options. Therefore, transit use in these areas is often less practical. Critics claim this promotes a reliance on cars, which results in more traffic congestion, pollution, and urban sprawl.[12][13]

Traditional solutions to the last mile problem in public transit have included the use of feeder buses, bicycling infrastructure, and urban planning reform.[12][14] Other methods of alleviating the last mile problem such as bicycle sharing systems,[11] car sharing programs,[15] pod cars (personal rapid transit),[16] and motorized shoes[17] have been proposed with varying degrees of adoption. Late in 2015, the Ford Motor Company received a patent for a "self-propelled unicycle engagable with vehicle", which is intended as a last mile commuter solution.[18] Bicycle sharing programmes, however, have been widely successful in Europe and Asia, and are beginning to be implemented on a large scale in North America.[19][20][21] Starting in late 2017, micro-mobility services - dockless electric kick scooters[22] and electric-assist bike sharing[23] - have entered the marketplace and have gained popularity and user share.

"First mile" can also refer to material transport in indoor logistical situations, such as the entrance and flow of raw goods through a facility starting at the inbound deliveries department. Last mile considerations have become wildly popular, yet material handling accounts for 30-70% of an item's total production cost.[24] One strategy for minimizing this cost is moving less inventory using a just-in-time model.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Goodman, R W (December 2005). "Whatever You Call It, Just Don't Think of Last-Mile Logistics, Last" (PDF). Global Logistics & Supply Chain Strategies: 84–86.
  2. ^ a b Scott, Martia (November 2009). "Improving Freight Movement in Delaware Central Business Districts" (PDF). Institute for Public Administration, University of Delaware. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  3. ^ Rodrigue, Jean-Paul; Claude Comtois; Brian Slack (2009). "The "Last Mile" in Freight Distribution". The Geography of Transport Systems (2nd ed.). Routledge. p. 212. ISBN 978-0-415-48323-0.
  4. ^ Allen, Brigitte (2012) Improving freight efficiency within the ‘last mile’: A case study of Wellington’s Central Business District (Thesis, Master of Planning). University of Otago.
  5. ^ Balcik, Burcu; Benita M. Beamon; Karen Smilowitz (2009). "Last Mile Distribution in Humanitarian Relief". Journal of Intelligent Transportation Systems. 12 (2): 51–63. ISSN 1547-2442. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  6. ^ "Delivery Experience Management is the Future of the Last Mile". Convey. 4 February 2019. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  7. ^ Jolly, Jennifer (9 October 2016). "Protect your online purchases from 'porch pirates'". USA Today. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  8. ^ "Alibaba deploys drones to deliver tea in China".
  9. ^ Fincher, Marcelo. "5 Ways to Overcome Last Mile Delivery Challenges". Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  10. ^ Danny King (21 December 2012). "Hiriko 'folding' EV will be produced for German car-sharing project next year". Autoblog Green. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  11. ^ a b "Using Bicycles for the First and Last Mile of a Commute" (PDF). Mineta Transportation Institute. September 2009. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  12. ^ a b "In Focus: The Last Mile and Transit Ridership". Institute for Local Government. January 2011.
  13. ^ "First steps toward livable communities". Fast Lane. U.S. Department of Transportation. 22 March 2009. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  14. ^ "FHWA grant funds East Coast's largest bike center; DC transport hub may crack the "last mile" problem". Fast Lane. U.S. Department of Transportation. 5 October 2009. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  15. ^ Kuang, Cliff (16 April 2009). "Convenience Is King". GOOD Magazine. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  16. ^ Zax, David (17 August 2011). "Can Driverless Pod Cars Solve the 'Last-Mile Problem'?". Technology Review. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  17. ^ Yvkoff, Liane (15 July 2010). "Are motorized shoes the last-mile transport answer?". CNet. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  18. ^ Read, Richard (29 December 2015). "Ford Patent Could Transform Your Car Into A Unicycle". The Car Connection. Internet Brns Automotive Group. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  19. ^ DeMaio, Paul (2009). "Bike-sharing: History, Impacts, Models of Provision, and Future" (PDF). Journal of Public Transportation. 12 (4): 41–56. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  20. ^ Shaheen, Susan; Guzman, S., and H. Zhang (2010). "Bikesharing in Europe, the Americas, and Asia: Past, Present, and Future" (PDF). Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 June 2012.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  21. ^ Shaheen, Susan; Stacey Guzman (2011). "Worldwide Bikesharing". Access Magazine. Archived from the original on 26 March 2012.
  22. ^ Raphelson, Samantha (29 August 2018). "Dockless Scooters Gain Popularity And Scorn Across The U.S." Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  23. ^ Greenfield, John (11 September 2018). "Jump's Cheaper, Dockless Electric Rides Seem to Be Winning Over Far-South-Siders". Streetsblog Chicago. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  24. ^ DAVICH, Dept. of Industrial & Systems Engineering. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2010.
  25. ^ "4 Ways to Optimize Material Transport". OTTO Motors. 23 February 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2017.