CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
February 22, 2020
Forward Thinking

Study: e-commerce trends are shrinking average length of truck trips

ATRI report finds growth of urban last-mile delivery has prompted shift of jobs from department stores to courier services and fulfillment centers.

Emerging e-commerce shopping trends are changing the face of the trucking industry, with the growth of last-mile delivery cutting the average trucker's trip length by 37 percent since 2000, according to an industry study released today.

Just as the average trucking haul distance has shrunk, the number of truck trips and urban vehicle miles traveled have increased for much of the same 19-year period, thanks to an increase in more regionalized retail supply chains and the proliferation of urban last-mile deliveries, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) said.

The ATRI report—"E-Commerce Impacts on the Trucking Industry"—also revealed that retailers are becoming more flexible in how they transact with consumers by decentralizing their distribution and fulfillment networks to bring inventory closer to consumers. That trend has resulted in a total of 2,130 fewer department stores and 385,000 fewer jobs at those stores in 2017 compared to 2015, ATRI said.

Even as store jobs have disappeared, courier jobs have expanded to take their place. There were 1,937 more courier services operating and just over 85,000 new employees hired in the sector between 2015 and 2017, the ATRI study found.

The loss of department stores has also been offset by the growth of "last-mile fulfillment centers," which represented 73 percent of the industrial real estate market in 2017, a 15 percentage point increase from the previous year.

"ATRI's research provides a critical roadmap for trucking industry stakeholders to address the challenges and benefits of e-commerce and omnichannel retailing," Tom Benusa, CIO of Eagan, Minn.-based trucking company Transport America, said in a release. "These trends are game-changing, and our industry must adapt quickly to ensure that trucking continues to be the preeminent freight mode."

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