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Park and pray: More delivery drivers park illegally amid curb congestion

Crowded city streets and limited spaces slow down the last mile, drive up costs

As more gig workers take up the final mile of delivery, they face a lack of parking spaces, driving up costs and forcing more illegal parking. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Last-mile delivery has a parking problem, and it is hurting efficiency, raising costs and ultimately hurting the ability to attract new drivers.

Just 7.5% of drivers surveyed by curb management company Automotus said they are always able to find parking at the curb upon arrival, and 25% spend between four and seven minutes searching for a spot.

“From the data, we see that very few drivers are able to get a parking spot without circling around for several minutes,” said Anil Merchant, head of product at Automotus. “Keeping in mind that the majority of drivers only spend three to five minutes in a parking spot, this means they’re spending just as much if not more time looking for parking as they are actually parked. This is a major issue for gig workers whose wages are dependent upon how efficiently they make deliveries — not to mention the fact that they are incurring extra fuel costs.”

Automotus received 120 responses to its survey, representing a mix of independent and contracted delivery drivers in all major regions of the U.S.

The costs to drivers are significant. Nearly 60% of respondents said they often have to pay for parking through a meter, adding up to two minutes to each delivery, and the cost associated with the meter’s fee.

“Like circling for parking, dealing with a meter can add a major chunk of time to a driver’s total delivery. Also, when drivers use a meter, they often end up paying a 30-plus minute parking fee for just three to five minutes spent at the curb,” Merchant said.


Pay for what you use

Merchant noted that technology can help ease this burden on drivers.

“In this case, technology that charges drivers (or their registered company) for the exact amount of time they spend at the curb would be a major asset. Not only would it shave off that time drivers spend paying for parking, but it would also promote quicker turnover and free up more space for other drivers,” he said.

Companies are working on alternatives to the curb parking problem, but solutions remain in their infancy. Beyond technology, use of cargo bikes and delivery hubs hold promise. According to Bob Tiderington, head of business development and partnerships at BrightDrop, e-commerce will lead to a 36% increase in delivery vehicles in the top 100 global cities by 2030.


Watch: Finding final mile success


“Delivery companies are struggling to keep pace,” he told a virtual audience during a panel discussion hosted by AxleHire on LinkedIn last month. The event, “How Zero-Emission Urban Last Mile Deliveries Work for Cities,” hosted by Anne Goodchild, founding director of the Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Center at the University of Washington, brought together several companies working to solve delivery congestion issues.

Park and pray

The issue is so pervasive that 25% of respondents to the Automotus survey said they park in spaces not meant for them when they can’t find a spot, and many park in paid zones without paying — hoping they don’t get ticketed.

“When commercial drivers receive a parking ticket, they are generally responsible for covering all costs — particularly if they are an independent or gig worker,” Merchant said. “This is once again a major financial burden for drivers that could be seriously mitigated by better policy and technology.”

Many of the respondents to the Automotus survey work for gig companies, with DoorDash (72.5% of respondents), Grubhub (45%) and Uber Eats (37.5%) the most likely companies to utilize their services. Twenty-three percent of drivers work for independent delivery companies.

“It’s very important to us as we build curb management solutions for cities that we’re responding directly to the needs of our curbs’ biggest users — commercial drivers. This survey was a great opportunity to ensure we’re addressing directly some of their biggest pain points,” Merchant said.

“There’s this massive increase in demand but also simultaneously there are trucks and vans clogging up our cities and residents are seeing that,” said Charles Jolley, CEO of e-cargo bike company Urb-E. “How do you make a system that can be adopted into the existing supply chain that already exists?”

Adam Bryant, CEO of AxleHire, said technology plays an important role.

“We’re matching the client demand, which in this case is the shipper, with drivers … [to match density],” Bryant noted.

Developing solutions

Mike Noe, pilot manager for the LA Cleantech Incubator (LACI), which conducted a zero-emission pilot program in Santa Monica, California, said its delivery zone pilot is entering its second year and the U.S. Department of Energy has provided funding to study curb usage and prioritize electric vehicle loading zones.

Bryant noted that the current 15-minute delivery craze is also an issue that “cuts out your planning time.” Further, it impairs the efficiency of delivery drivers who are spending four to seven minutes finding parking and paying for meters, according to Automotus.

“Because cities are working with a limited amount of space, both the city and the driver would be well served by policy and/or technology that incentivizes parking turnover­­­ — which would mean parking spots are more frequently available, and drivers spend less time circling for parking,” Merchant said. “There is a lot of technology out there that can measure demand at the curb and help cities allocate more space to delivery vehicles where it’s most useful. It’s an incredible opportunity to reduce the overall time drivers spend per delivery, but also reduce emissions and make streets safer.”

Noe said that LACI is deploying cameras at curbs to monitor parking situations so it can “really understand” the problem.

Click for more articles by Brian Straight.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and fleetowner.com. Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected]
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