Developing Design Guidelines for Commercial Vehicle Envelopes on Urban Streets

Developing Design Guidelines for Commercial Vehicle Envelopes on Urban Streets

Edward Mccormack Anne Goodchild Manali Sheth David Hurwitz

University of Washington, Oregon State University, Oregon

Available online: 
| Citation



Commercial heavy vehicles using urban curbside loading zones are not typically provided with an envelope, or space adjacent to the vehicle, allocated for loading and unloading activities. While completing loading and unloading activities, couriers are required to walk around the vehicle, extend ramps and handling equipment and manoeuvre goods; these activities require space around the vehicle. But the unique space needs of delivery trucks are not commonly acknowledged by or incorporated into current urban design practices in either North America or Europe. Because of this lack of a truck envelope, couriers of commercial vehicles are observed using pedestrian pathways and bicycling infrastructure for unloading activities, as well as walking in traffic lanes. These actions put them and other road users in direct conflict and potentially in harm’s way.

This article presents our research to improve our understanding of curb space and delivery needs in urban areas. The research approach involved the observation of delivery operations to determine vehicle type, loading actions, door locations and accessories used. Once common practices had been identified by observing 25 deliveries, simulated loading activities were measured to quantify different types of loading space requirements around commercial vehicles. This resulted in a robust measurement of the operating envelope required to reduce conflicts between truck loading and unloading activities with adjacent pedestrian, bicycle, and motor vehicle activities. From these results, commercial loading zone design recommendations can be developed that will allow our urban street system to operate more efficiently, safely and reliably for all users.


freight, commercial vehicle load zones


[1] National Complete Street Coalition, available at, (accessed 12, March 2019).

[2] Smart Growth America, available at, (accessed 12 March 2019).

[3] The Final 50 Feet, Urban Goods Delivery System, Final Report, Supply Chain and Logistics Center, University of Washington, available at, 2019.

[4] Goodchild, A., Ivanov, B., McCormack, E., Moudon, A., Scully, J., Leon, J.M. & Giron Valderrama, G., Are Cities’ Delivery Spaces in the Right Places? Mapping Truck Load/Unload Locations. City Logistics 2: Modeling and Planning Initiatives, pp.351–368, 2018.

[5] Wygonik, E., Bassok, A., Goodchild, A., McCormack, E. & Carlson, D., Smart growth and goods movement: emerging research agendas. Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability, 8(2), pp.115–132, 2015.

[6] Health and Safety Executive, Delivering Safely, available at, (accessed 12 March 2019).

[7] Delivering the Goods, 21st Century Challenges to Urban Good Transport, Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, E118628, available at, (accessed 19 March 2019).

[8] Dezi, G., Dondi, G. & Sangiorgi, C., Urban freight transport in Bologna: Planning commercial vehicle loading/unloading zones. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2(3), pp.5990–6001, 2010.

[9] US Census Bureau News, March 13 2019, Quarterly Retail E-Commerce Sales 4th quarter 2018, available at (accessed 19 March 2019).

[10] CIVITAS Policy Note, Smart Choices for Cities, Making Urban Freight Logistics More Sustainable, available at,(access 12 March 2019).

[11] Seattle Department of Transportation, Can I Park Here, available at, 2015 (accessed 19 March 2019).

[12] Federal Highway Administration, Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways, 2009 ed.

[13] American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, The Green Book, A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets, 6th ed., 2011.

[14] The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), Urban Street Design Guide. Island Press, 2013.

[15] Pivo, G., D. Carlson, M. Kitchen, & D. Billen. “Learning from Truckers: Truck Drivers’ View on the planning and Design of Urban and Suburban Centers. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research 19(1), pp. 12–29, 2002.

[16] Ogden, K.W., Truck movement and access in urban areas. Journal of Transportation Engineering, 117(1), pp.71–90, 1991.

[17] U.S. Department of Transportation, Truck Monitoring Guide, Vehicle Types, available at (accessed 21 March 2019)