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Cargo E-Bike Delivery Pilot Test in Seattle

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Publication Date: 2020

This study performed an empirical analysis to evaluate the implementation of a cargo e-bike delivery system pilot tested by the United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS) in Seattle, Washington. During the pilot, a cargo e-bike with a removable cargo container was used to perform last-mile deliveries in downtown Seattle. Cargo containers were pre-loaded daily at the UPS Seattle depot and loaded onto a trailer, which was then carried to a parking lot in downtown.

Data were obtained for two study phases. In the “before-pilot” phase, data were obtained from truck routes that operated in the same areas where the cargo e-bike was proposed to operate. In the “pilot” phase, data were obtained from the cargo e-bike route and from the truck routes that simultaneously delivered in the same neighborhoods. Data were subsequently analyzed to assess the performance of the cargo e-bike system versus the traditional truck-only delivery system.

The study first analyzed data from the before-pilot phase to characterize truck delivery activity. Analysis focused on three metrics: time spent cruising for parking, delivery distance, and dwell time. The following findings were reported:

  • On average, a truck driver spent about 2 minutes cruising for parking for each delivery trip, which represented 28 percent of total trip time. On average, a driver spent about 50 minutes a day cruising for parking.
  • Most of the deliveries performed were about 30 meters (98 feet) from the vehicle stop location, which is less than the length of an average blockface in downtown Seattle (100 meters, 328 feet). Only 10 percent of deliveries were more 100 meters away from the vehicle stop location.
  • Most truck dwell times were around 5 minutes. However, the dwell time distribution was right-skewed, with a median dwell time of 17.5 minutes.

Three other metrics were evaluated for both the before-pilot and the pilot study phases: delivery area, number of delivery locations, and number of packages delivered and failed first delivery rate. The following results were obtained:

  • A comparison of the delivery areas of the trucks and the cargo e-bike before and after the pilot showed that the trucks and cargo e-bike delivered approximately in the same geographic areas, with no significant changes in the trucks’ delivery areas before and during the pilot.
  • The number of establishments the cargo e-bike delivered to in a single tour during the pilot phase was found to be 31 percent of the number of delivery locations visited, on average, by a truck in a single tour during the before-pilot phase, and 28 percent during the pilot phase.
  • During the pilot, the cargo e-bike delivered on average to five establishments per hour, representing 30 percent of the establishments visited per hour by a truck in the before-pilot phase and 25 percent during the pilot.
  • During the pilot, the number of establishments the cargo e-bike delivered to increased over time, suggesting a potential for improvement in the efficiency of the cargo e-bike.
  • The cargo e-bike delivered 24 percent of the number of packages delivered by a truck during a single tour, on average, before the pilot and 20 percent during the pilot.
  • Both before and during the pilot the delivery failed rate (percentage of packages that were not delivered throughout the day) was approximately 0.8 percent. The cargo e-bike experienced a statistically significantly lower failed rate of 0.5 percent with respect to the truck fail rate, with most tours experiencing no failed first deliveries.

The above reported empirical results should be interpreted only in the light of the data obtained. Moreover, some of the results are affected by the fact that the pilot coincided with the holiday season, in which above average demand was experienced. Moreover, because the pilot lasted only one month, not enough time was given for the system to run at “full-speed.”

Recommended Citation:
Urban Freight Lab (2020). Cargo E-Bike Delivery Pilot Test in Seattle.