Grahame Neagus, Head of LCV, Renault Trucks UK and Ireland: First there were Hauliers, usually family run businesses who would transport goods up and down the UK; then there were Operators, some of whom worked for larger companies under their own flag. Now we have Logistics Experts equipped with state-of-the-art technology and intelligent connectivity, faced with environmental and legislative challenges, ever more demanding customers and a ‘free delivery’ culture that undervalues the very service our industry provides.

The question is, despite all of the technological advancements, has the world of Logistics really advanced at the same pace of change as our expectations for delivery?

Back in the 1970s, out on my paper round, I can remember the parade of Unigate electric milk floats leaving the depot in Hoddesdon from 5am onwards, going about their rounds in near silence and emissions free. The drivers delivered goods directly to the doorstep, collecting the returns in the process. Dialogue with residents was commonplace and most knew the person who delivered their milk by their first name. Goods quickly expanded to include, yogurts, cream, butter and fruit juices, and soon the concept of ‘home deliveries’ was born.

And whilst there are still some electric milk floats doing the rounds today, diesel dominates today’s home deliveries – but for how much longer?

At Renault Trucks, we’re ready to #SwitchToElectric as the first Master Z.E. fully electric vans arrive on our roads, with 1100kgs payload and multiple wheelbases and variants, ideal for urban operations and the challenges of CAZ, LEZ and ZEZ. E-commerce is now the fastest growing sales channel in Europe; delivery services are expanding at a rapid rate, competition is fierce.

The pressures of environmental, legislative and operational efficiencies are transforming logistics. Promising to take vehicles off our roads and to improve the efficiency of logistics operations, AI and robotics could be another answer. Driverless vehicles are starting the shape the future. Already a reality in confined, well-managed industrial areas such as airports, warehouses and docks, the arrival of the Amazon Scout, a small, threeaxle delivery pod that can deliver directly to your door heralds the first in fully autonomous urban deliveries.

Yet efficiency is only one aspect of the service we provide, and we need to take a more holistic view. Out on the road or delivering to customers, your drivers are the face of your business; people meeting, greeting and managing the expectations of people, part of a community. And it is this human touch that makes all the difference. We should never under estimate the role and value of a great driver who knows his or her clients and community. The combination of zero tailpipe emissions, silent delivery vehicles like Renault Trucks’ Z.E. range driven by a highlytrained, socially-responsible driver gives us the best of both worlds.

Future vehicle autonomy is great in the right location, but remember it’s that personal service that can make the real difference to a customer’s next purchase decision.