Quiet Deliveries Make for More Livable Cities

By Paul McDonald, Sonitus Systems

Editor’s Note: This article is a follow-up to an article published in June 2018 (NNI, vol. 26, no. 2), considering a pilot study in Stockholm that examines the effect of a ban on truck deliveries at nighttime. Paul McDonald from Sonitus Systems writes to give us an update.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), noise pollution is an underestimated threat that can cause hearing loss, cardiovascular problems, cognitive impairment, stress, and depression. Generally speaking, noise pollution in cities can be attributed to traffic, conversations, audio systems, construction, or entertainment, and it is a growing problem for local governments and city residents. As measures are required to reduce environmental noise, cities are turning to smart technology to manage noise levels and reduce the impact it has on its communities. As the global trend of urbanization intensifies, the neighborhood lines between residential and commercial are blurring. This is actually a positive thing from a placemaking perspective; however, it brings its own particular challenges. For example, nighttime deliveries in cities are now impacting residents in a more pronounced and unsustainable way.

This global urban problem has been identified by the city of Stockholm in Sweden, which is home to approximately 965,000 residents. As the largest city in the Nordic countries, Stockholm is tackling the noise issues associated with being a fast-growing, bustling city. In fact, many cities and countries have laws that limit noise in residential areas; however, there is still a lot of work to be done to roll out workable solutions. While noise is a completely normal part of life, people in cities can minimize traffic noises by altering their habits from driving to walking or using public transport. Cities can also reduce vehicle speeds, increase bicycle lanes, construct sound barriers, or maintain busy roads to help noise control; however, without proper monitoring systems in place, this can be challenging.

Having trucks or lorries delivering to shops or restaurants in the morning, during rush hour traffic, is generally not ideal. Stockholm recognized the need to consider overnight deliveries; however, as heavy-duty commercial vehicles are restricted from driving in Stockholm’s city center at night because of the associated noise, a pilot study to test silent overnight deliveries was introduced earlier this year at six McDonald’s restaurants in Stockholm, using a hybrid truck from Scania and operated by HAVI.

The deliveries to McDonald’s restaurants used silent electric-powered vehicles, which was a collaborative project between the city of Stockholm, HAVI, KTH, EU, McDonald’s, and Scania. Sonitus Systems worked with KTH University to provide a technological solution. Sonitus Systems provides user-friendly and reliable noise monitoring systems, and the technologies developed have been transforming the international noise monitoring industry for more than a decade, with automated technology that allows users to monitor data online from anywhere in the world. With proven international experience, competency, and innovation, the team at Sonitus Systems is paving the way for disruption in the noise monitoring sector globally. Experts in smart city solutions, Sonitus Systems is currently measuring noise in 20 locations around Dublin, which can be accessed by the public.

The initiative in Stockholm was supported by Civitas Eccentric, which is an EU initiative for cleaner and better transport in cities. As Stockholm is growing quickly, the local government recognized the need to invest in smart solutions for sustainable mobility. The initiative involves other European cities including Madrid, Munich, Ruse, and Turku, and it aims to have fewer cars on the city roads, good cycling lanes, designated walking areas, cleaner vehicles, and increased civic support and participation. For Stockholm especially, the hope is to reduce car ownership, increase commercial bus speed, and reduce travel times in the city.

Motor vehicle noise is regarded as a nuisance, and with the noise caused by engine braking, exhausts, and displacement of air, the team in Scania knew they had to find a solution that would reduce the range of noises a lorry emits. For Stockholm to allow for deliveries during the twilight hours, there was no exception; the deliveries had to be silent, without causing noise disturbances to residents living nearby. A hybrid was the likely answer, and following a huge amount of work and collaborative research, Scania developed the hybrid truck.

The hybrid truck is run on a combination of electricity and fossil-free fuel, which greatly reduces the emissions of particles and carbon dioxide, thereby being better for the environment. Geofencing technology was fitted and connected to the truck, and with this technology, the truck is able to adapt to its environment and driving conditions in a predefined area. Traffic zones that are virtually available decide on how the vehicle will motor and alters its speed to the speed limits allowed in the city center, providing reduced emissions and noise. With the ability to drive quietly (in silent mode for up to 10 km) and a capability to drive for longer distances, the hybrid can deliver at night without disturbing residents. This change allows for fewer trucks on the roads during busy periods and actively aids the city’s traffic jams. The truck’s battery is charged by external power sources by regeneration, which means the movement of the truck is turned into electricity when the brakes are pressed. In this case, an electrical charging center was placed near one of the restaurants, allowing for the charging of the battery. Longer routes were another consideration between the city and the warehouse, so the vehicle is designed to run its internal combustion engine on HVO, allowing for a 90 percent reduction in carbon emissions. The software is so smart with Scania Zone (a software tool), virtual fences, and geofences, it automatically changes over to the “quiet mode” when it is in the city area.

The pilot study proved to be successful with the team, and the modified vehicles showed significantly reduced noise levels in sensitive areas. The noise monitoring program has now been extended to include an expanded fleet of vehicles across the city. The additional research funding will allow the technical teams to build on their initial findings and demonstrate the environmental and social advantages of their quiet delivery systems.

About Sonitus Systems

Sonitus Systems supplies robust and reliable sound level monitoring equipment globally from its base in Dublin. Its award-winning products and services allow users to easily monitor and assess noise levels in any scenario to ensure compliance. For more information, call the team at Sonitus Systems on +353 1 6778443 or email info@sonitussystems.com.