2.1.3 Further definitions

Course subject(s) Module 2. System approach to understand city logistics

ere, we provide you with a more complete explanation of the key terms discussed in the video.


Freight can be defined as the transport of goods. Urban freight involves transporting goods within urban areas. To understand why freight occurs involves exploring the role freight has as a service within the economy and how freight is influenced by logistics and supply chains. Since goods are generally stored, processed and consumed at different locations, there is a need for goods to move to increase their value for producers, manufacturers and consumers. Therefore, freight can be considered as the economy in motion. Freight is a derived demand, that is, it does not exist for its own sake. The primary demand is for the production, manufacturing and consumption of goods where there is spatial separation.


Logistics relates to how business apply methods to plan and coordinate the transport and storage of goods. This involves purchasing (inventory control), storage (warehousing) and transport (flow of goods). Thus freight is influenced by a broader set of business processes and decisions.

Supply Chains

Supply chains consist of geographic network of dispersed facilities where raw materials, intermediate products, or finished products are acquired, transformed, stored, or sold and transport links that connect facilities along which products flow.


A system can be considered to be, “any collection of interrelated and interacting components that work together in an organised manner to fulfil a specific purpose or function” (Dandy and Warner, 1989:48). The components or objects of a system are often diverse, but act in unison and in accordance with a coherent plan for smooth and orderly operation. A system can be specified by its components (objects) and their attributes (properties) together with relationships (interactions) between them. Components can be considered the parts or processes of a system which can also be made up of a variety of sub-components (sub-systems) that can be regarded as systems themselves. Relationships provide the connections between the components of a system. Specifying a system involves identifying its purpose, components and relationships.

Urban Freight can be considered as a system. The purpose of an urban freight system relates to it’s role in providing a service for the economy.  The main components of the urban freight system consist of producers, manufacturers, wholesalers and consumers. The urban freight system allows access to markets for exchanging goods.

Traffic System

A substantial proportion of urban freight occurs on urban traffic systems. The traffic system comprises three main components, roads, vehicles and driver. Therefore, the major characteristics and interactions between freight vehicles, the road environment and drivers need to be identified and considered if the system is to achieve it’s goals such as efficiency and safety.

Urban Distribution Systems

Urban distribution involves deliveries from shippers to receivers undertaken by carriers. Urban distribution systems consist of a number of key stakeholders including shippers, carriers, receivers, residents and government. Shippers can be wholesalers, manufacturers or importers, whilst receivers are the final consumers of goods such as retailers, offices or households. Carriers can be transport companies or companies who manufacture or sell goods. Although the overall goal or purpose of urban distribution systems is to maximise efficiency and safety, the goals of each stakeholder are different and need to be considered since this largely influences their behaviour and the performance of the system.

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Sustainable Urban Freight Transport: a Global Perspecitive by TU Delft OpenCourseWare is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://ocw.tudelft.nl/courses/sustainable-urban-freight-transport-global-perspective/.
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