Identifying urban logistics chains – The ECHO/TMVProject

Science topics June 2013 CityTransport

David Guerrero, Researcher - AME Department, SPLOTT Laboratory,

Check them

ECHO, an original survey dealing with complete transport chains and their links with production systems.

Freight transport is a vital activity for cities and essential for their supply of goods and their economic development. The scale and nature of freight flows depend on the size and form of individual cities, and also to a large extent on how their activities are structured. In this connection it is important to identify the economic determinants of the flows.


ECHO/TMV: two surveys that complement one another

Thus, identifying these determinants is the purpose of the TMV surveys (Transport de Marchandisesen Ville − Urban Freight Transport surveys). However, they only deal with a small number of cities and remain within their boundaries. Some of these shortcomings can be overcome by exploiting the previously conducted ECHO1 survey which provides an insight into the national situation and gives a full description of the transport chains that are outside urban areas. Thus, combined use of the ECHO1 and TMV2 surveys improves our understanding of urban freight transport and shows how urban flows are integrated within transport chains and freight flows.


Contacts : Guilbault (the project coordinator), F. Bahoken, C. Cruz, D. Guerrero and L. Proulhac (IFSTTAR); O. Gavaud (CETE de l’Ouest, ERA Fret) ) and D. Patier, JL. Routhier (LET).


Methodological contributions: the geographical division of research

The national dimension of this study showed the proportion of the total volume of transport activities that takes place in urban areas before undertaking more specific analysis of interurban flows that examined the role of different levels of the hierarchy of cities. The second level of observation related to cities themselves and dealt not with specific cities, but « standard » cities that were constructed by grouping different urban units together to form entities that were uniform in terms of population type.

A typology of urban freight flows was then drawn up which distinguished between flows that remained within the conurbation, incoming and outgoing flows, and transit flows that passed through logistics hubs. These flows were then subjected to more detailed analysis that took account of all the available economic and urban variables, and, in particular, urban origin and destination zones.

The methodology, which was developed specifically for the study, divided a city into zones on the basis of movement densities. These provide a uniform representation that can be interpreted without reference to the type of city.


Exploiting the results

From the results it was possible to identify the routes taken by urban transport chains, taking account of the entire sequence of trips both inside and outside the conurbation. This made it possible to identify explanatory factors for the length and number of trips in the chains and highlighted the way the urban sections of the journey linked up with the rest of the chain.

The researchers then looked into the logistical organization of urban transport. They studied the relative proportions of own account, third-party transport, courier delivery services and subcontracted road-haulage. The type of carrier, journey, vehicles and departure and arrival times were also considered.

Moreover, both ECHO1 and the TMV2 surveys highlighted that wholesale trading plays a major role in structuring freight flows. This was also shown by an analysis that refined the conclusions drawn from the TMV2 surveys.




1 ECHO : Envois CHargeurs Opérateurs (Consignments Shippers Operators)
2 TMV : Enquêtes Transport de Marchandises en Ville (Urban Freight Transport Surveys)