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Last Mile Delivery Problems: Keeping Your Packages Flowing

September 11, 2023 | By Jacob Lee
Last Modified: December 6, 2023
From urban challenges to rural delays, we break down the most pressing last mile delivery problems in today's logistics landscape. We’ll also explain some useful solutions that you can use to circumvent these issues.

Last mile delivery problems are a major concern in the logistics industry. Shipments during this part of the transportation process can be stolen or damaged during delivery. Understanding the these issues will help businesses avoid these challenges and keep cash flowing and customers satisfied. 

According to the International Transport Forum, last mile delivery problems encompass challenges faced in the final stages of shipping. This often includes traffic congestion, infrastructure bottlenecks and outdated tech. Fortunately, a company can use advanced technology and well planned routes to overcome these unique issues.

With the right solutions available, you can make last mile delivery problems a thing of the past. 

Understanding the Last Mile Delivery Problems

Last mile delivery is the final part of the shipping process. It encompasses the journey of a package from the distribution center or warehouse to the recipient’s address. This seemingly short stretch is packed with challenges that can test the efficiency of the most robust delivery systems.

As a result, shipments can have the following problems:

  • No real-time tracking updates
  • Unclear delivery windows
  • Hassle-filled delivery experiences

Dissatisfied buyers can have dire consequences on a business. Learning about last mile delivery problems and solutions will help companies improve this part of their operations. 

You can learn more about the challenges of last mile delivery in our article about this important topic. 

A frustrated truck driver talking about last mile delivery problems on the phone

Common Last Mile Delivery Issues

Every customer’s location has unique challenges. While one might be located in a bustling city center with traffic and accessibility issues, another might be in a remote rural area far from regular delivery routes. Each of these areas have a variety of problems that have to be overcome.

Other last mile delivery hurdles include:

  • Infrastructure and traffic challenges
  • Cost implications
  • Technological limitations

We’ll dive into the problems that each of these obstacles can pose for businesses. 

1. Challenges of Urban Last Mile Delivery

Urban areas have dense populations and bustling traffic. These factors present a unique set of challenges for last mile delivery. Numerous streets and drop off points can make servicing  these locations a nightmare. 

Some common issues include:

  • Limited parking and unloading areas
  • Construction projects
  • Complex building structures

Two unique problem that carriers face in these areas are limited parking and unloading areas. Most urban centers aren’t designed with large delivery trucks in mind. This limitation often means drivers have to park far from the delivery point or risk fines by parking illegally.

Navigating through cityscapes also means dealing with ever-changing urban planning and construction projects. A route that’s clear one day might be blocked the next, which can create last mile issues for carriers. Complex buildings pose a problem as well. 

This includes structures like:

  • High rises
  • Gated communities
  • Large apartment buildings

Residences like these could have specific delivery time windows or security protocols.  Many of these buildings don’t have direct access to the recipient’s doorstep. This makes dropping off the packages much more difficult. 

2. Challenges of Rural Last Mile Delivery

While urban areas are dense and bustling, rural regions come with their own distinct set of challenges for last mile delivery. These areas have sparse populations and cover vast distances. 

This causes:

  • Increased fuel costs
  • Longer delivery times
  • Inaccurate addressing systems

Recipients are spread out across far distances in rural areas. Fuel costs for last mile delivery is exceptionally higher in these areas because of the ground that has to be covered. Traveling greater distances in rural areas also leads to longer delivery times. 

Many rural homes don’t have standardized addressing. Instead, some people living in these areas rely on landmarks or other non-traditional means. New drivers who haven’t delivered to a certain rural areas may have trouble navigating these kinds of routes. 

Even if recipients in rural areas have an accurate address, a GPS system might not take a carrier to their front doorstep. Many homes in these locations have long driveways that will have to be traversed to reach the actual property. 

3. Infrastructure and Traffic Challenges

Infrastructure and traffic are two problems in last mile delivery that are closely related. Many roads in urban and rural ares of the U.S. aren’t in the greatest condition. Some are full of potholes, and other kinds of road damages can affect vehicle health. 

In some cases, bridges will have weight restrictions. Roads in rural destinations are often narrow or are made of dirt. Operating a delivery vehicle in these conditions is difficult and carriers might have to reroute a driver to avoid these obstacles. 

While infrastructure is a problem that cities have, many urban areas are rampant with brutal traffic conditions. 

This can cause a variety of issues, such as:

  • Slower delivery times
  • Disrupted schedules
  • Increased fuel consumption

While traffic is much less severe in rural areas, accidents that do occur might be more difficult to avoid. These locations don’t have as many alternate routes as cities. Any accidents that occur in a country area can result in significant delays. To demonstrate the amount of traffic that exists in the U.S., we’ve included the following data.

Traffic In the U.S. Across (January – June 2023)

MonthTotal Miles Traveled in Billions

Provided by the Department of Transportation (DOT)

The total number of miles traveled are the sum of all regions in the country. With so much distance covered, it’s likely that last mile deliveries will be caught in heavy traffic conditions at some point or another. That said, metropolitan regions will have more congestion than rural areas. 

4. High Costs

Despite being an important part of the transportation process, last mile delivery is notoriously the most expensive. This is due to the numerous challenges that can disrupt the operation. 

Factors that contribute to the expenses of this service include:

  • Fuel and maintenance costs
  • Labor costs
  • Missed delivery attempts

Frequent stops and starts in urban areas can consume more fuel. Wear and tear from navigating through congested areas increases maintenance costs. Brakes in delivery vehicles are replaced quite frequently due to all the stops drivers have to make along a route. 

Labor costs influence last mile delivery expenses in a variety of ways. For one, delays caused by unforeseen challenges mean drivers are on the clock longer. If a delivery is complicated, more manpower will be required. 

Failed shipments also contribute to higher expenses. Missed first-time deliveries have to be rescheduled and attempted again. When this happens, expenses double without any added revenue. Missed deliveries can lead to the loss of repeat business as well.

Our article on last mile delivery costs can provide you with more information about the expenses that come with these services.  

5. Technological Limitations

In the modern era, many logistics companies have turned to technology to streamline operations and overcome challenges. When it comes to last mile delivery, there are several technological limitations that delay orders. 

These include:

  • Limited integration capabilities
  • GPS and Mapping inaccuracies
  • Connectivity concerns

Many older systems aren’t designed to combine with newer tech solutions. Workers might have to manually input data or cross-check between systems to work around these problems. While GPS technology has come a long way, it’s not always 100% accurate. 

Drivers might be led to incorrect addresses or advised to take routes that aren’t optimal. In many rural areas, connectivity can be spotty or non-existent, which makes it difficult for carriers to keep recipients posted about their orders.

Our article on last mile automation discusses some of the technological solutions that can make this service more efficient. 

How To Solve Last Mile Problems

Last mile problems in transportation can make this service seem daunting to many companies. Fortunately, there are steps that businesses can take to ensure this part of the shipping process goes smoothly. 

These include:

  • Advanced technology applications
  • Real-time tracking
  • Efficient warehouses and distribution centers
  • Flexible delivery options for customers
  • Well planned routes

By understanding and implementing these solutions, businesses will improve the delivery process. This leads to increased customer satisfaction and a strengthened bottom line. 

1. Buy Online, Pick Up in Store

One way to overcome many of the last mile problems in logistics is with a Buy Online, Pick Up in Store (BOPIS) policy. Rather than have goods shipped to a customer’s house, businesses can use this option to deliver the products to a company store for pickup. 

Benefits of BOPIS include:

  • Increased in-store sales
  • Lower return rates
  • Reduced shipping costs

With BOPIS, goods come straight to the store. Therefore, products that are picked up from a location increases sales for the outlet. Return rates will also be lower since buyers can easily check the contents of their shipment before taking it home. 

Finally, transportation costs are reduced with a BOPIS policy. Companies only have to pay for shipping services to deliver the goods to their store. Afterward, they wait for buyers to come and pick up their items. 

2. Real-time Tracking

Many of the challenges surrounding last mile delivery can result in delayed orders. This can frustrate customers who expect their shipment to arrive by a certain date. Real-time tracking is a solution that helps recipients keep tabs on their orders.

Benefits of this important shipping feature includes:

  • Enhanced transparency
  • Reduced customer queries
  • Accountability and security

Providing customers with real-time information on their shipments fosters trust. They can monitor their package’s journey, from the warehouse to their home or place of business. This technology will also let them know if their shipment is delayed. 

With access to real-time data on their cargo, buyers are less likely to contact customer service for updates. This reduces the workload on support teams and enhances the overall experience for the consumer. Having these systems in place also demonstrates a company’s commitment to open communication, further building brand trust.

Real-time tracking reduces the chances of parcels getting lost, as every step of the journey is recorded. If issues do occur, it’s easier to identify where things went wrong.  

3. Efficient Warehouse and Distribution Centers

The last-mile delivery begins long before a product is loaded onto a truck. All shipments start at a warehouse or distribution center. When these facilities operate efficiently, it directly affects the reliability of last-mile deliveries. 

Efficient warehouse operations hinge on a well-organized inventory system. Businesses that know the exact location of products in a distribution center can reduce the time spent searching for items. This means orders are processed faster and are sent out for delivery sooner. As a result, cargo shipment have a higher turnaround.

Businesses should also try to place warehouses close to their customers. This can ease drop off times and circumvent the problems with last mile delivery. Some companies may also turn their stores into small fulfillment centers. Doing so makes it easier to ship goods to customers.

In addition to last mile delivery services, we offer nationwide 3PL warehousing and order fulfillment. Give us a call or fill out one of our contact forms to learn how to begin streamlining your logistics.

4. Flexible Delivery Options

Offering flexible delivery options can greatly influence a customer’s shopping experience and loyalty. It also serves as a great solution to the last mile problem. 

Benefits of providing flexible delivery options include:

  • Meeting varied schedules
  • Alternative pickup locations
  • Real-time adjustments

Not all customers are available for deliveries during traditional hours. Evening or weekend drop offs might suit some, while others prefer a weekday. Catering to these varied preferences increases customer satisfaction. Providing alternative delivery options can also help carriers avoid heavy traffic conditions, depending on the time orders are fulfilled. 

Sometimes, receiving a package at home isn’t the best option for a customer. Infrastructure and building designs may not provide a place for a delivery to be made. Therefore, alternative pickup locations can overcome these issues. 

This includes:

  • Locker pickups
  • Store pickups
  • Designated drop-off points

Such options ensure that even if a recipient isn’t home, the package is safely stored until they can retrieve it. Flexible delivery options can also be used once a last mile shipment is already en route. 

If a customer realizes they won’t be able to receive their order, allowing them to change the location on-the-fly can prevent missed freight. This reduces the hassle for both the delivery service and the customer, which guarantees smooth operations.

5. Well Planned Routes

Infrastructure and traffic are two problems that plague last mile shipments. By meticulously plotting out the delivery path, businesses can sidestep these challenges. Certain routes will have less traffic and better infrastructure that makes dropping off cargo more efficient.

Some other benefits of planning a route out carefully includes:

  • Time management
  • Maximized delivery capacity
  • Reduced operational costs
  • Enhanced driver safety

Planning routes optimally ensures that each delivery is carried out in the shortest possible time. By considering factors like traffic patterns, roadworks, and other potential disruptions, shipments can be dropped off more quickly. 

When a route is well planned, drivers can complete more deliveries in one trip. This capacity optimization means that businesses can cater to more customers without needing to expand their fleet.

Fuel consumption is directly proportional to the time spent on the road. Routes that are optimized will significantly cut down on fuel expenses. Less time on the road means fewer vehicle breakdowns and reduced maintenance checks.

Well-planned routes also consider the safety of the roads. Avoiding accident-prone areas or routes in poor condition can improve the well-being of drivers on their journey. By extension, freight is also better protected when it travels on a safe delivery path.  

Our article on last mile best practices will show you some methods that can optimize this essential service.

A warehouse worker moving some boxes on a pallet jack

The Role Last Mile Logistics Plays In Customer Satisfaction

Effective last mile logistics is essential to customer satisfaction. One of the most prominent expectations of buyers is speedy delivery. When final mile transportation is optimized to the fullest, customers can expect their goods to arrive in a timely manner. This raises the satisfaction of buyers and guarantees their repeat business. 

Customers demand real-time tracking of their orders. Being able to trace a package as it moves closer to its destination gives a sense of assurance and reduces anxiety. Companies that  provide tracking information to their buyers during last mile delivery will raise their satisfaction greatly. 

Modern consumers expect options to reschedule, reroute, or even pick up their packages from designated spots. With flexible drop off options, customers can use a policy that fits their needs. Companies will provide a high degree of satisfaction when they accommodate to the unique demands of their buyers. 

Learn about efficient final mile delivery services and how it can elevate customer experience. 

Discover Solutions for Last Mile Delivery Problems with USA Last Mile Logistics

Solve your last mile delivery problems with USA Last Mile Logistics. We have a skilled team of professionals that will analyze your unique load cargo that you need dropped off. After considering your needs, we’ll search for a delivery company that’s right for you.

Our partners are experts at performing these services. They’ll be able to get your goods to a destination undamaged and within a reasonable time frame. If you’re ready to use USA Last Mile Logistics as your final mile provider, then fill out your RFP or contact our team. You can also call us at (866) 569-1445 for any questions or concerns. 

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