"Today, we are keeping around 50-60 lorries out of the city centre. That has a positive impact on quality of life and we are set to continue."
Benjamin Rieder, CEO
Bubble Post is a company that specialises in city distribution. From its own depots on the periphery of cities, the company takes care of freight transport from and to the city centre with ecological vehicles. Why? Because our cities are groaning under the pressure of mobility, according to Benjamin Rieder. In the world rankings for congestion, Flanders, Brussels and Antwerp are in positions one, two and three respectively. There are moments when it looks like an occupation. Bubble Post would like to use smart delivery services to relieve city centres of heavy traffic.
Everything started when he was a student, explains Benjamin Rieder. Michel De Waele, the current CCO, was studying Small Business & Retail Management at the Avans Hogeschool in Breda. He was working on a thesis about the feasibility of bicycle taxis in city centres. This research offers the insights required to get started. The switch from theory to practice was made in Ghent. "We started on a small scale with passenger transport via bicycle taxis in 2012 but have now expanded and changed to freight distribution."
"Our mission is to replace and reduce vehicular movements."
"With a parcel delivery service, we can make more of an impact than with taxis." The Bubble Post customers are other transport companies, chain stores, local tradesmen and e-commerce companies. We can grow alongside e-commerce as it expands in the coming years. It was quickly clear that growth potential was much greater. "We expanded exceptionally quickly. Today, we have 30 vehicles: 21 electric cargo bikes and 7 electric delivery vans. We are operating in 5 cities and employ 45 full-time employees."
From the first moment it was clear that nobody wanted to pay more just for the ecological story. Idealism or image was not going to work as a commercial driver. The only thing that was going to work was the idea that sustainable transport could also deliver financial benefits for customers. They came to realise this on the basis of three efficiency factors: combination effect, flexible city mobility and alternative energy.
The combination effect means that as many goods as possible are combined to ensure that delivery trips are kept to a minimum, i.e. as many delivery addresses are covered in as few kilometres as possible. The foundation of this is a software package that is continuously being improved by the three-man IT team. Thanks to these intensive, on-site activities, they can generate an insight into improvement areas. The fact that the technology is younger than that of the larger, classic transport companies means that they work according to a different (read more advanced) plan and create advantages in terms of effectiveness. Freed from logarithms, the software is also much more intuitive to use. Route plans are created or amended automatically.
With alternative vehicles, they are more flexible in city traffic and this often results in parcels arriving at their destination quicker than conventional transport. More customers can thus be serviced within one trip.
Another, just as important, advantage with respect to classic transporters is the fact that the Bubble Post vehicles are driven by electricity or human legs. This delivers significant cost savings and the customers can benefit from this too. The sustainability performance is also substantial. Today, Bubble Post is keeping between 50 and 60 vehicles out of the city centre. In terms of quality of life, this makes a huge difference. And there are additional growth perspectives.
"The ecological footprint and the difference that we are making are closely monitored as this is linked to the planning software."
They are supported in this by CO2Logic. The offices and storage locations run on 100% green energy. Bubble Post is working towards 100% climate neutrality and if this is not possible, they compensate for it.
A little surprising perhaps, but they only ever use interim contracts and students in order to accommodate peaks. Most of the drivers have a regular status as the learning curve is important in order to ensure maximum productivity. Drivers love their job. The alternative vehicles are not produced by us but are created on the basis of very specific Bubble Post requirements. Visibility in the street is a particular feature.
De alternatieve voertuigen worden niet zelf geproduceerd, maar wel aan de hand van zeer specifieke eisen van Bubble Post ontworpen. De visibiliteit in het straatbeeld is ontzettend groot.
"Bubble Post is living proof of and a convincing campaign for sustainable mobility."
Bubble Post has grown very quickly and this is largely down to wise decision to seek out investors very early in the process. This rapidly provided the necessary scale in order to be relevant for the market. If it had been done in an organic manner, it would have been a lot slower and more difficult. With a good story and a good business plan, you can quickly obtain the money you need. Once you have your own storage locations, capacity and volumes can increase.
Collaboration is also very important. Bubble Post received a great deal of support from the VIL (Flemish Institution of Logistics), VOKA (advice concerning business culture and capital acquisition) and Ghent's local authority.