Completed 2019 Research Project

Urban freight and road safety: Trends and innovative strategies

Principal Investigator
Noreen McDonald
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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Co-Principal Investigator
Becky Naumann 
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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Christopher Cherry
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
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Offer Grembek 
University of California, Berkeley
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Full Report

Project Slide Deck

Research Brief


In this study we conducted a systematic review to identify last-mile delivery strategies and to determine how those strategies have been evaluated in the literature. We found 21 unique last-mile delivery strategies, assigning them to 4 meaningful categories –innovative vehicles, urban goods consolidation, technological and routing advancements in city logistics, and emerging planning tools and policies. Our analysis found that researchers had analyzed the impact of urban logistics strategies around four impact areas: operational, environmental, social, and economic considerations. We found 25 distinct evaluation criteria among these categories, six of which were high-order, or generalized criteria, and 19 of which were lower-order, or more specific criteria.

Of the 21 unique last-mile delivery strategies, the most common were urban consolidation centers (UCCs) and freight bicycles. UCCs were identified by 29 articles in the sample that we analyzed. A UCC is a facility for the transshipment of goods headed for urban areas to consolidate deliveries and increase efficiency of last-mile delivery. UCCs take many forms and have many close analogues, and this diversity is likely a contributing factor to the strategy’s prominence in the literature. Another frequently cited strategy is freight bicycles. Freight bicycles can take many forms as well, being either human-powered or assisted with an electric motor. This strategy was mentioned 24 times in the literature that we analyzed. Another often-mentioned strategy was collaborative logistics. Collaborative logistics involves communication and planning between separate logistics firms to trade last-mile delivery tasks in a mutually beneficial agreement. This strategy utilizes emerging communication technology and algorithms to improve efficiency in last-mile delivery.


  • Lyons, T., N. McDonald. Accepted. Last Mile Strategies for Urban Freight Delivery: A Systematic Review. Transportation Research Record.
  • McDonald, N. and Q. Yuan. 2021. Freight Loading Space Provision: Evidence from the U.S.A. Journal of Urban Planning and Development 147(2).
  • McDonald, N., Q. Yuan, R. Naumann. 2019. Urban freight and road safety in the era of e-commerce. Traffic Injury Prevention 20(7): 764-770.


  • Planning for Urban Freight Delivery: How Do City Codes Accommodate Freight? With Charles Edwards. Available through STRIDE.

Project Details

Project Type: Research
Project Status: Completed
Start Date: 6-15-2019
End Date: 6-15-2021
Contract Year: Year 3
Total Funding from CSCRS: $106,158