Low-emission zones (LEZs) in cities are driving forward innovation in urban logistics, delegates heard at the Freight in the City Spring Summit in Birmingham.

Laetitia Dablanc, director of research at the French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport, Development and Networks, said there were around 200 LEZs operating in 12 countries across Europe.

Many capital cities across Europe now prevent access to older, more polluting vehicles to varying degrees, with countries such as Germany and Italy using LEZs in all medium-sized cities as well.

Dablanc conducted a survey about the impact LEZs had on the urban freight sector in London, Berlin and Gothenburg - you can read the findings of that survey here.

As well as a decrease in the number of freight miles undertaken within LEZ zones, Dablanc also discovered a reduction in the number of smaller operators.

She told delegates: “I don't think this is a bad impact. I think it is good for the industry of urban freight, which has seen too many very small freight companies that lack the size to modernise their fleet and invest in their technology, or organise deliveries differently.”

Despite a positive trend towards sustainable urban freight models, 95% of deliveries into city are still made by diesel truck or van, she said: “95% of deliveries may be better off as a result of LEZs.”

Her research also found that LEZs had been more widely accepted in cities than originally thought, while the role of the rental sector had gained more prominence as operators looked for cleaner fleet vehicles

Dablanc also touched on the potential of extending the amount of out-of-hours deliveries taking place across cities globally.

She told delegates how New York City’s latest trials had led it to now include expansion of out-of-hours deliveries and noise monitoring in its transport strategy.

Businesses taking part had reported fewer delays, faster travel speeds and millions of dollars saved through parking tickets.