How can we reconcile passenger and freight transportation?

  • Anne-Marie Idrac

    Anne-Marie Idrac

    Chairman of France Logistique and SANEF

21 March 2024

While the mobility of passengers has long been a topic of public debate, the movement of goods — logistics — has emerged more recently and remains a blind spot in both research and political action.

Yet the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the importance of transporting products of all kinds. The need for supply chain resilience is heightened by geopolitical and climate crises. Across local and global contexts, these supplies pass through complex logistics chains. Because these chains combine storage and transport, it is necessary to consider land-use, urban planning and transportation policies at all levels.

The competitiveness and decarbonization of logistics go hand in hand. In fact, the need to optimize the use of resources (kilometers, square and cubic meters, energy, human resources…) is rooted within the logistics ecosystem.

This is a matter of ensuring that warehouses are properly networked — as close as possible to production and consumption sites — to reduce transport distances and land footprints. This also means making fleets greener, as they are mainly road and diesel-powered, to minimize their environmental impact.

Several well-established concepts within The Mobility Sphere, related to the mobility of people, are equally applicable to the movement of goods:

One mobility issue that directly applies to logistics is the massification of flows. To address this issue, we must focus on developing freight train networks for long-distance transportation whenever feasible and relevant. Trucks, which serve a similar purpose as buses in this context, often see increased efficiency by consolidating customer orders and optimizing their load capacity.

Both types of mobility also require a diverse range of solutions to meet specific needs. In contrast with massification, the development of cyclo-logistics is tailored to certain configurations of light-weight and short-distance deliveries. Similarly, it’s important to establish a clear distinction between different types of warehouses, including those required for import-export, upstream and downstream production activities, or for various forms of distribution and trade.

Multimodality is also relevant in the discourse around logistics and mobility. From rail to inland navigation, multimodality is required to bridge the gap between different modes of transportation and bring goods to their final destinations: stores and restaurants, factories and construction sites, private individuals… To foster intermodality, land availability is an important issue to consider.

Last but not least, the cross-functional approach required for urban logistics extends from traffic and parking regulations to urban planning policies that allow for the establishment of convenient storage and delivery facilities.

In the future, reindustrialization and circular economy trends will increase the need for logistics services across Europe. These trends must give new impetus to decarbonization roadmaps for industrial and logistics management. To adapt to the changing dynamics of mobility and logistics, we must develop concerted approaches between the public and private sectors.