Using information gathered from some 30 UK surveys undertaken over the last 15 years, this paper provides planners with an understanding of road-based urban retail freight transport activity. The findings suggest that the average High Street business could expect up to 10 core goods and 7.6 service visits per week, in non-peak trading periods with 25% additional activity during the build up to Christmas. Vans (‘light goods vehicles’) were the dominant mode, responsible for 42% of delivery activity with a mean dwell time of 10 min. Where possible, load consolidation should be encouraged by methods such as Delivery and Servicing Plans and using out-of-town freight consolidation centres to bring in goods over the last mile in shared vehicles. Where this is not possible, loading bay monitoring and control, and preferred lorry routes can help manage the movement of vehicles in and out of dense urban areas.
Service vehicle activity is a significant contributor to urban freight movements and often requires vehicles to be parked close to the premises being served. Centrally coordinating elements of service provision (e.g. for cleaning, equipment maintenance, recyclate collection), or providing improved, more flexible parking provision for service vehicles could be as or more beneficial in reducing overall freight impacts than focusing on core goods deliveries. In the case of the latter, ‘pay-as-you-leave’ car park charging systems could encourage short-stay service vehicles to park off-street.