Relevant research review

17 June 2020 - Published by Deirdre Buist
In the context of the current crisis and the economic implications of the widespread restrictions across Europe, there are also opportunities for sustainable adaptation in our new world order. For example, in urban freight logistics. We’d like to highlight, once again, the impressive research on sustainable last mile logistics carried out by our Scottish partners in the Surflogh project. Green freight logistics is now more relevant than ever.

The Transport Research Institute of Edinburgh Napier University and South East Scotland Transport Partnership (Go SEStran) have collaborated to produce a critical literature review of last mile logistics. This review has been constructed to not only inform all Surflogh partners of the main research studies that have been undertaken in the area of last mile logistics, but also to provide a more general knowledge base for the project as a whole. As such, this report goes considerably beyond the traditional literature review.

Selective Literature Review

This Selective Literature Review (SLR), which involved searching, selecting, appraising, interpreting and summarizing data from original studies, provides an overview of methods and methodologies employed in last freight mile research. The main themes under which these have been carried out are also identified.

The searches located 60 studies, with the vast majority of these being peer reviewed. These are organised under four emerging main topic areas:

- Economic viability

- Business Models

- Policy

- Partnership Working


Dr. Cowie presenting at the 6th International Workshop on Sustainable Road Freight, University of Cambridge.

Critical mass & Covid-19

Dr. Jonathan Cowie, responsible for producing this report, has shared some of his main conclusions: “We need critical mass for UCC services to succeed, while bottom up rather than top down approaches seem to work best.” With the Covid-19 lockdown that critical mass was suddenly there and business is booming for last mile delivery services. See our previous article on how Groningen-based Dropper shot to the top. “Very little research has examined the underlying economics of the urban freight market which is ultimately the main driving force,” Dr. Cowie adds.


Business is booming forJantine Doornbos and  Dropper in Groningen

Recommended read

The Surflogh partnership has benefited greatly from the insights provided in this valuable research document when designing and developing their pilot projects. This is a recommended read for all stakeholders involved or interested in sustainable urban logistics.

You can access the full Literature Review on Sustainable Freight Logistics here: