The constant growth of engagement in the E-commerce market has players in the courier business eyeing Ireland for their next move. An Post (the national Irish postal service) has seen significant rises in volume of deliveries year on year. From 2016 to 2017 Amazon packages showed an increase of over 30%.
Yet the international heavyweight is not the only one seeing the benefits of a changing consumer market as Irish brands like Arnotts, Brown Thomas, Gifts Direct and Smyths Toys played their part in the rush.
An Post’s performance has continued to improve as its profits went from €8m in 2017 to €40m in 2018.
Logistics report finds increased pressure on businesses and courier services.
This growth in online retail has set off an arms race in logistics as both international and local retailers become more reliant on transport and distribution networks to delivery their products to customers, according to analysis by AIB.
AIB’s Transport and Logistics Outlook report focuses on the impact of E-commerce and retail on the logistics sector, with data obtained from spending data on the banks own credit and debit cards. February 2017 to February 2018 showed a 25% increase in the quantity in online retail transactions with Dublin alone counting for 30% of the countries online purchases.
This need is being met by local couriers seeking distribution centres outside of Dublin city proper, with a network of smaller logistics hubs near final delivery markets.
Delivery hubs to tackle congestion and delivery van journeys.
UPS has been visibly working on this ‘last mile delivery hub’ model for a number of years now. Back as early as June 2017 a locally-designed container was placed on Wolfe Tone Street which supports package couriers journeys made by foot, bike and electrically-assisted vehicles in Dublin. These mini distribution centres help to ease the demand for vans travelling through the city centre each day.
UPS Ireland’s country manager Andy Smith has weighed in on the topic, stating that “As one of Europe’s fastest growing cities, Dublin is going through an exciting period of change – but one that also comes with challenges of congestion and air quality”.
Dublin’s Chamber of Commerce has estimated that as many as 500,000 people travel within the city every day, which is expected to rise with another 234,000 commuters by 2023.
The head of technical services in the Dublin City Council, Brendan O’ Brien has said “This pilot project gives an excellent collaboration opportunity between UPS and Dublin City Council to reduce the number of goods vehicles on the city streets, reduce congestion and improve the urban environment with less emissions, noise, and damage to roadways. The outcome of this pilot project will inform freight delivery practices in the city.
Irelands’ first drone delivery heralds a new era in courier services.
Back in January of 2017, Pony Express Couriers made what has been hailed as Ireland’s first drone delivery. After obtaining clearance from the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) to make the delivery, the package of medical supplies was successfully delivered to a boat moored 200 meters off the shore in Dun Laoghaire Harbour.
Executives of Pony Express have cautioned that it may be some time before widespread commercial drone delivery services will be active in ireland, as “Important city deliveries such as the majority of our same-day express services could not be trusted to drones yet as the possibility of interception, loss or damage would be too great” said Audrey Browne, operations manager of Pony Express.
This could, however, be beneficial to rural communities. An Post announced in late 2018 that they would close 159 rural post offices across 25 counties due to retirement of local postmasters. An Post has stated that all of these locations were in places where there were fewer than 500 people living and that 100 of them are in remote areas with fewer than 50 occupied dwellings.
Therefore, there is a great opportunity for drone deliveries in less congested areas. As mentioned by Ms. Browne, “The delivery of low value, urgent items such as takeaway food, especially to remote rural areas is highly likely”.
But apart from practicality, the regulatory hurdle is still significant. In order to complete their two-minute flight, Pony Express Couriers had to apply for permission from the IAA weeks in advance, and inform Dublin Airport due to the restricted airspace rules around Dublin.
So while we might not see drones zipping around the country delivering our takeaways yet, as of the 26th of April 2019 the Google-linked firm Wing Aviation has been given the US go-ahead for drone deliveries.
Currently, parts of Virginia are being tested for the pilot program. This is after conducting thousands of flights in Australia over the last few years.
Wing aviation has said it will “solicit feedback with the goal of launching a delivery trial later this year”.
The US government has estimated about 110,000 commercial drones were operating in the US and that number is expected to rise to 450,000 in 2022.
Amazon, UPS and DHL have also conducted tests and are keen to implement their own pilot programs in the near future.