Reduced fuel consumption, reduced round trip times, improved shift productivity, reduced store turnaround times, increased product availability, less congestion, better air quality, reduced carbon emissions – all are proven benefits that out-of-hours deliveries can provide.

Yet many local authorities are reluctant to give the green light to out-of-hours deliveries for fear of upsetting local residents – and it takes only one complaint to upset the apple cart. Also, many retailers inherit statutory planning conditions put in place years ago when the site was used by another business, and these are a lot trickier to overcome.

Last week the FTA, the DfT and the Noise Abatement Society (NAS) brought the issue to the fore with the unveiling of the results of the Quiet Delivery Demonstration Scheme (QDDS) trials (see p3). These involved trials at six separate sites belonging to Tesco, Superdrug, Asda, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer, and Sainsbury’s.

Although not all the trials were able to proceed in their entirety, valuable lessons were learned, and the QDDS team has created two guides – one for retailers and one for local authorities – that can be used to assist both parties on the journey to quiet night time deliveries.

With the disruption to the supply chain that the London 2012 Olympics is going to cause, operators and their customers need to look at extending their delivery windows to certain sites, so these guides will be invaluable.

Interestingly, although there is now an array of quiet delivery equipment available for operators to use, the trials revealed that an incremental reduction in noise can be achieved purely from behavioural changes. For instance, training drivers to turn off their radios when they enter a store’s yard and not slamming their doors etc. However, noise from vehicle engines remains the biggest contributor to ambient noise levels.

Still, for those interested in extending the delivery window, the QDDS trials have shown that quiet deliveries can work. Not all sites will be appropriate for night-time deliveries, but if you can operate at an alternative to the peak traffic times, resulting in less idling time and quicker average speeds, isn’t it worth considering for some of your sites at least?

The QDDS guides are available free from the FTA, the NAS, and the DfT’s websites.