Theft and failed deliveries could be solved if packages arrived at a more secure destination
Like many Americans these days, the Brotmans of Port Washington, N.Y., buy a lot of stuff online. In one recent week, this family of five received deliveries of clothing, a fire pit, a phone mount for a motorcycle, shop tools, a drum synthesizer, a book on sailing and more.
With five or more deliveries a week—from FedEx, DHL, UPS, Amazon and the post office—things can get confusing. “Some are delivered to my doorstep; some are delivered to mystery locations around the back of my house; and some are delivered to faraway lands for reasons that escape everyone involved,” says Dan Brotman, founder of Media-Star, a digital-content and marketing company.
Long before the days of online shopping carts, homeowners got deliveries primarily in their mailbox. Today, your junk mail arrives reliably and securely in the mailbox, while valuable (and perishable) packages are typically heaped on the doorstep. Our homes haven’t caught up with the Amazon Age.
Still, delivery companies have performed well despite the sudden surge of online orders amid the coronavirus pandemic, says Anne Goodchild, director of Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics, a research institute at the University of Washington’s College of Engineering.
Dr. Goodchild’s organization formed the Urban Freight Lab, a working group of academics, cities and industry leaders, in part to study “the final 50 feet,” a term that describes the last leg of a package’s journey from a delivery truck to the customer. Package theft and failed deliveries are two major concerns, she says. “Most delivery failures are caused by communication problems. It’s a pain for you, it’s a waste of the time for the carrier. The more people get deliveries, the higher the losses will be. A lot of our tests and trials are about reducing that loss rate.”