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Demonstration F: Colruyt and Delhaize in Brussels - Night-time deliveries

Many traffic service providers rank Brussels as the most congested European city. Drivers in Brussels face average delays of over 33% during peak traffic hours. These delays do not only affect the everyday commuter, but also the inner-city freight deliverer. The potential time gains have increased the interest among carriers and the bigger retail chains to shift some of the deliveries to the off-peak hours. That is also the case for Colruyt and Delhaize, the two biggest Belgian food retailers. Together, they operate 39 big supermarkets in the Brussels-Capital Region. Based on their experiences with off-peak deliveries in other Belgian cities, both retailers are keen to start delivering to these shops during the night. Most Colruyt and Delhaize shops in Brussels currently have an environmental permit allowing them to load and unload between 7am and either 7pm, 8pm, 9pm or 10pm.

Both Colruyt and Delhaize believe night deliveries would be a good way to spread their DC operations and the goods reception at the shops. They also believe it would gain them time and fuel by avoiding traffic congestion during peak hours. The idea could be beneficial for society as well. Earlier tests with night deliveries suggest that delivering to shops outside the morning and evening peak hours has multiple advantages:

  • Fewer trucks on the road during the peak hours and reduced traffic congestion
  • Increased traffic safety in city centres because trucks are less often confronted with vulnerable road users
  • Fewer emissions because trucks are not stuck in traffic.

Colruyt distribution
Colruyt distribution

Because they believe night deliveries could be a win-win solution, and in view of possible road pricing schemes in the future, Colruyt and Delhaize would like to investigate possibilities for night-time deliveries. However, there are some stumbling blocks resulting from the fact that loading and unloading operations produce noise which can be irritating for people living close, especially at night. Therefore, it can be expected that some local citizens will not be in favour of night-time deliveries. Also the public authorities and the Brussels public service for environment and energy, in particular, would like to see evidence of the effects of this shift in operations.

Delhaize distribution
Delhaize distribution

The Colruyt and Delhaize demonstration has multiple goals:

  • Demonstrate to two important stakeholders (the authorities and the local citizens) that it is possible to perform night-time deliveries without causing additional noise nuisance. Both Colruyt and Delhaize have been investing in and will continue to invest in silent trucks, silent rolling stock and the education of truck drivers to work quietly. Apart from that, the demonstration also aims to assess the real nuisance as it is experienced by the local citizens.
  • Many projects have been testing urban night-time deliveries. Usually, this is done with a one-dimensional focus on the noise issues. It is the goal of this project to assess the impact of night-time deliveries across the various stakeholders and their various key criteria.

The demonstration took place at five demonstration sites (2 of Colruyt, 3 of Delhaize). Noise levels were measured at each site during a complete delivery routine, in line with the requirements of the Brussels public service for the environment and energy. The delivery routine was carried out between 8pm and 10pm using 'silent' trucks and equipment. Based on the results, the public service granted temporary permits to do a real night-time demonstration over a period of two weeks. During that period, the five demonstration sites received deliveries during the night, early mornings or late evenings on a regular basis. Noise measurements were made for a period of four consecutive days.

Expected outcomes of the demonstrations are:

  • A cost reduction for fuel for CNG deliveries during the off-hours compared to diesel deliveries during the peak hours.
  • Time gains because peak traffic can be avoided
  • Smoother operations at the distribution centre due to a better spread of departures
  • Smoother and safer loading and unloading at the shop as it can be done before or after opening hours
  • A viable business case that can balance the cost reductions (time gains, fuel gains, etc.) and the increases in costs (labour costs, investment costs, etc.)
  • Reduced CO2, NOx and PM10 emissions of around 20%, 40% and 40% respectively
  • A positive impact on overall traffic safety and traffic congestion


Project Final Review meeting, Brussels

Smart Urban Freight Conference hosted by NewRail, Newcastle University, including contributions from Straightsol project
[Conference webpage]

Evaluation Framework Training Sessions, Newcastle University

Open ENLoCC event, Brussels, including presentation of Colruyt and Delhaize night-time deliveries demonstration

Demonstration Results Workshop/Exhibition in Amsterdam

TNT Express demonstration workshop in Brussels

Oxfam demonstration workshop in Batley, near Leeds, UK

DHL Supply Chain demonstration workshop in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat/Barcelona, Spain

Oslo: Demonstration workshop
Smart Urban Transport - Standardising information in retail supply chain management and last-mile distribution


Thessaloniki: Demonstration workshop
"Intelligent" systems for the interconnection of urban-interurban freight transport


Brussels: STRAIGHTSOL project workshop on Smart Urban Freight Solutions
(in collaboration with the Smartfusion partnership)