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Courier Companies Face Uphill Battle in Delivering Time-sensitive Packages to Businesses in Urban Centres

On any given day, couriers and same-day messengers deliver 2.2 million packages to businesses and households across Canada. In an industry where delays are measured in minutes, if not seconds, express delivery service (EDS) companies are facing an uphill battle in delivering packages and documents to businesses in urban areas, according to Murtaza Haider, a professor in the Ted Rogers School of Retail Management and Director of Ryerson’s Institute of Housing and Mobility.

Haider examined the challenges facing the express delivery service industry in Canada’s urban centres in his latest study. The Canadian EDS industry employs 50,000 workers and contributes approximately $8 billion to the nation’s economy.

On average, 81,000 packages and parcels are delivered in downtown Toronto every business day. Haider determined that the area bound by Yonge, University, Wellington and Queen Streets had the highest demand for courier and same-day messenger services. A detailed survey showed that inadequate parking facilities prevented couriers from delivering packages efficiently, without disrupting traffic.

“In 2006 alone, the three major express delivery companies (FedEx, United Parcel Service and Purolator) were awarded 34,000 parking tickets. That’s approximately $1.5 million in fines,” Haider said. “It’s essentially a hidden tax levied on these companies, and it’s hurting the competitiveness of the courier industry and Canadian businesses.”

Typically, couriers and same-day messengers waste countless minutes searching for parking spots and waiting for their turn at loading docks – even though they may only spend a few moments at each delivery stop. In an age of instant communication, this problem is akin to lining up to send an email at the post office, added Haider.

“Couriers and same-day messengers serve the same businesses in the urban core as public transit agencies. But whereas we acknowledge that businesses can’t operate without their workers – and therefore, bus bays and streetcar stops are ubiquitous – there is virtually no space allocated for couriers, who deliver the packages and documents that keep businesses running.”

But in spite of the industry’s important role in the global supply chains, its needs have been largely overlooked by urban planners and commercial property managers because they are unaware of the issues, according to Haider’s report.

His research included direct interviews with couriers and same-day messengers, urban transport regulators, and commercial property managers and their tenants. This information was supplemented with site visits, data collection, a literature review, and a detailed spatial analysis of couriers’ pickup and delivery services in downtown Toronto.

While Haider acknowledges there is no silver bullet to reduce congestion in the urban core, he makes several recommendations in his study. Among them, municipal authorities need to improve their understanding of, and planning for, couriers and same-day messenger services. One suggestion is to provide short-term parking bays, similar to those provided for buses, in the downtown core. Buildings should also be encouraged to offer drop-off and loading facilities, which would ease traffic congestion from illegally parked courier vehicles and decrease parking fines.

An alternative to issuing parking fines is to implement user fees for dedicated parking facilities for courier vehicles. To reduce administrative costs of processing these fees, trucks and vans could be equipped with global positioning systems (GPS) that will enable courier companies to automatically transfer the fees to the municipality via wireless communication. This GPS technology can also help courier companies find the quickest route to their destination.

Haider’s study, Challenges Facing the EDS Industry in Canada's Urban Centres, was funded by Ryerson University and the Canadian Courier and Logistics Association.

Ryerson University is Canada’s leader in innovative, career-oriented education and a university clearly on the move. With a mission to serve societal need, and a long-standing commitment to engaging its community, Ryerson offers close to 100 undergraduate and graduate programs. Distinctly urban, culturally diverse and inclusive, the university is home to 28,000 students, including 2,000 master’s and PhD students, nearly 2,700 tenured and tenure-track faculty and staff, and more than 130,000 alumni worldwide. Research at Ryerson is on a trajectory of success and growth: externally funded research has doubled in the past four years. The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education is Canada's leading provider of university-based adult education. For more information, visit

Suelan Toye | Newswise Science News
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