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There is no denying that we live in a very disruptive day and age. Start-ups of all kinds are looking for ways to make their way in the business world by disrupting established paradigms. As a case in point, consider bicycles and robots for urban deliveries. Is it possible that these two disruptive delivery systems could render the traditional van licence and delivery system obsolete?

Delivery vans are staples of urban environments for a lot of very good reasons. First and foremost, vans make local deliveries a lot easier and more efficient because of their smaller size and greater ability to navigate urban traffic. Second, less stringent licencing requirements make it easier to hire and retain van drivers. From UPS to FedEx to every other logistics company making urban deliveries, vans rule the day in big cities and small towns alike. But a few start-ups aim to change that.

The BBC reported on one particular company in France this past December (2015). The company, known as The Green Link, provides green logistics services in Paris. The company utilises a fleet of specially modified bicycles to make deliveries to up to 2,000 customers per day. The modified bikes are three-wheeled vehicles with pedals, seats, and sizeable cargo areas capable of carrying light to medium-weight parcels.

The second company is an Estonian enterprise recently profiled by ZDNet. Going by the name of Starship, the company is in the process of developing a fleet of battery-operated robots that can be used for local delivery. Starship executives believe their technology can be used for neighbourhood deliveries of no more than a few miles in length – the kind of deliveries that would be ideal for supermarkets, independent retailers, and department stores. The technology has already proven effective at a fraction of the cost required to run human deliveries using vans.

Disruptive but Not Destructive

A quick perusal of logistics history indicates that the two companies hoping to disrupt the traditional urban delivery paradigm will indeed succeed in doing so. But disruptive does not mean destructive. Both companies will enjoy a modicum of success based on the kind of service and reliability they offer. But they will neither bring an end to traditional van deliveries nor render the van licence obsolete.

Bicycle-based delivery services, for example, are nothing new. They have been around in cities like London and New York for decades. As effective as they are, they are limited in volume, capacity, and speed. Expecting modified bicycles capable of delivering parcels to completely replace vans is to not understand how necessary vans are to urban logistics. The same is true of robots. They are too limited to do any serious damage to the proven delivery van model.

If you have been considering getting a van licence for the purposes of becoming a professional delivery driver, there are no worries here. Jobs are out there right now, and they will continue to be out there for the foreseeable future.


  1. BBC – https://www.bbc.com/news/business-35137130
  2. ZDNet – https://www.zdnet.com/article/move-over-drones-here-come-skype-co-founders-self-driving-delivery-robots/


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