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City Box - Small loading unit for urban distribution

Netherlands Flag
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Smart mobility and services (SMO)
Transport mode
Road icon
Transport sectors
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

In order to reduce hindrance from vehicles in city centres, a lot of measures have been taken in The Netherlands in the field of city distribution. Retailers are confronted with restraints in terms of area, weight, volume of the vehicles and the access regime, consisting or routes and time frames. In this project a central role is predicted to shopping centres and supermarkets who make use of trucks and semi-trailers (loaded with pallets and/or roll-containers)

The restraints in city centres cause difficulties for the above mentioned vehicles. Problems to be faced are:

  • accessibility of inner-city destinations,
  • regulation of vehicle characteristics,
  • environmental and safety issues,
  • image problems.

Goal of the city box project is investigating the feasibility and determination of characteristics of a new logistics concept for city-distribution and supply. In the project, a nw multi-functional standard loading unit will be introduced.
The ultimate goal is to realise a multi-purpose deseign, that can solve the problems of all retailers / transport operators who are confronted with lacking accessibility of city centres.


The main parts of the research consist of:

  1. technology, 
  2. organisation, 
  3. ICT and 
  4. financial aspects.

The first phase of the project results in a working prototype of the new concept loading unit in a selected city. In the first instance, logistics concepts and accessory vehicles, loading units / carriers will be developed. Starting point in this development is the current distribution patterns of the Albert Heijn Supermarket chain.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Private foundation
Institution Name
Connekt foundation
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


One of the main results is that private actors within their logistical chain increasingly tend to create distributionpoints situated at the borders of cities or in the region. Reasons for this are public law restraints (in terms of area, weight, volume of the vehicles and the access regime, consisting or routes and time frames) and the aim to provide better service levels.

It is generally accepted that stadardisation of loading units is conditional for the introduction and deployment of new concepts of distribution within cities.

- To mechanize and automate loading, unloading and transferprocesses it is essential to keep costs within acceptable levels. This is only possible on the basis of standardisation

- Standardisation offers the possibility of more efficient combination of smal freigt. Standardised carriers and small city distribution vehicles result in increase in loading effeciency, reduction of costs, and a reduction of vehicle movements.

It is concluded that for the succesfull deployment of city box concepts close cooperation between the actors is essential to realize large scale integrated applications and the resulting economies-of-scale as well as the societal benefitsFurthermore, from a economic perspective the citybox-concepts call for a integral approach (for example, further benefits may be achieved by using larger vehicles outside urban areas).

Essentiel for the realisation of all innovative and efficient forms of distribution within cities is a consistent public policy making. This involves the commitment of the central government and local authorities. Harmonisation of access regimes in cities should be developd on a basis of a national framework.

Policy implications

Within the citybox-project a number of reccomendations are formulated.

- the aim should be to realise a prototype citybox concept as soon as possible. This prototype should at least consist of the components that make it possible to test essentiel functions on a technical and operational level.

- after succesful testing a pilot should be initiated

- for the purpose of design-proces of the prototype ass well as the pilot a group of sponsors, private actors and municiplaities willing to facilate a pilot should be formated

- this group should formulate principles and conditions for the (orginisational) implementation

- during the prototype development phase other innovative concepts and options for standardisation should be explored that may be applied next to the citybox-concepts and may be mutually supportive.

- expected long term effects of citybox-concepts should be explored

- dialogue with government agencies concerning (harmonisation of) acces- and environmental regimes should be intensified.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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