Truck driver during distribution in Paris

Deliver efficiently to urban areas during major events

Major event in an urban area? Here’s how to deliver to the city center.

During a special event – whether athletic, political, or otherwise – it can be a real challenge to make deliveries to city centers. Streets are often blocked by traffic or barricades, and many obstacles can hinder delivery progress, especially as the demand for deliveries increases.

For example, it is estimated that the “Café / Hotel / Restaurant” sector supply needs increasing by 1.7 times the normal rate during special events. During sports competitions, even athletic stores see their sales rise as tourists take sneaker shops by storm. As Paris prepares for the 2024 Olympic Games, the topic is as hot as ever...

So how can logistics or carrier operators handle such unusual situations? How can one ensure successful deliveries and satisfaction for customers’ expectations?

From gathering information, to establishing a complete, precise assessment of the imposed limitations, and determining the communication plan, here are our recommendations.

Planning to better anticipate any transportation obstacles or restrictions by assessing the situation

To optimize transport efficiency during a special event involving huge crowds, preparation is key. Without advanced planning, it is more difficult to navigate various obstacles, roadblocks, and parking restrictions, which makes it even more complicated to make deliveries on time.

Firstly, prepare your teams. Become well-acquainted with the local authorities. Planning starts with designating effective leadership within the company. A small team must be put in charge of gleaning as much information as possible from the political decision-makers (city and state authorities, sustainable urban logistics teams, etc.). 


The earlier this research is done, the more effective your action plan will be. It is essential to have advance notice of which streets will be closed, and which will remain accessible, in addition to what times they are accessible. The same goes for any parking or unloading restrictions (specially designated areas, access procedures for those zones, etc.). If possible, obtain a precise map of the location. Also, keep in mind that exceptional events call for exceptional security policies. During a massive gathering such as the FIFA or Rugby World Cup tournaments, the Olympic Games, or a major political convention, the government is likely to establish specific rules. 


Drivers might need advanced authorization, and the vehicle might also need to be registered before shipping the delivery.
It is important to know that there are specialized professional organizations representing the transportation and logistics professions – such as the association TLF – which provide special access to public authorities. If you are having a hard time getting through to the right people, feel free to call on them!

Whether calling on a specialized organization or directly on the authorities, inquiring ahead of a large-scale event is also an opportunity to showcase your profession and highlight its specificities to authorities. You might demonstrate how your work supports the supply chain to local businesses, stimulates the economy of tourist destinations, and has a positive impact on the area’s daily life and activities, for example.

Any meeting is a chance to establish a true partnership with the authorities. Make sure you stay in contact throughout the duration of the large-scale event. This will provide you with real-time policy updates, thus allowing you to modify your action plan and access map accordingly.

Develop a provisional action plan using data and digital technology 

Preparing for a large-scale event as a logistics or transport specialist also means conducting a simulation. It is important to establish an alternative route for the rounds planned on that date, and digital technology – particularly the use of data – can be of great assistance.

Begin by using data to determine the volume of deliveries made in previous years during the same periods and in the same area. How many deliveries were made there last year, two years ago, and three years ago? Where are the regular customers located? Will you have to organize special rounds for them? By entering all this data into a mapping tool, you will get an accurate idea of the approximate number of deliveries to each zone and understand where to concentrate your efforts geographically. Analyzing this information makes it possible to calculate the percentage of flows that will be affected or modified so that you can adapt your production means and organizational model to deal with temporary or momentary restrictions. 

When special events are underway in urban centers, it is very likely that you will have to change your procedures. The same applies in case the quantity of deliveries drastically decreases, meaning the opposite can also occur! Each day, GEODIS makes 120 rounds to deliver products throughout the center of Paris. But when the capital is cordoned off because of a special event, the usual approach needs to be reconsidered. To address the increased needs of local businesses caused by a rush of tourists, the number of rounds can rise significantly. Our drivers take alternative routes, our logistics teams group certain goods together within the same vehicle to reduce delivery times, and so on. 

Obviously, changes in human resources are also part of the preparation. Consider hiring extra drivers and verifying the schedules of your existing personnel to coordinate their leave and stagger their vacations.

Implementing the right system in the field to ensure deliveries

During a large-scale event, new distribution modes need to be adopted by everyone. There are several options available to optimize deliveries. For example, certain logisticians and carriers might opt for deliveries during low-traffic periods. They make their rounds after-hours, late at night, and early in the morning, when there is less congestion and more accessibility.

This is a convenient option, but of course it is necessary to consider the limitations that this strategy entails, particularly in terms of noise disturbance.
Another alternative is to consider smaller vehicles that can easily slip through the narrow passageways available in the city center. Smaller vans, eco-friendly cargo bikes... There are several transportation modes available to get e-commerce parcels to their destinations! Multi-modal transportation – using several types of vehicles to reach hard-to-access areas – might also be a solution. The trip might begin in a van and finish in the last mile on a cargo bike, or even on foot for the final approach...

As a professional, it is up to you to raise awareness among your coworkers about the specific conditions that they will have to deal with. Drivers are a foremost priority since they need to know the alternative routes and have access to the list of procedures to follow if an obstacle arises. But also consider speaking with your customers about logistics challenges. Explain the restrictions that you might have to deal with and the ways to overcome them. You’ll be able to find solutions as a team that will allow you to uphold your commitments. For example, would they agree to after-hours deliveries to ensure that their merchandise arrives on-schedule? Could they possibly stock their products in warehouses near the urban area, or even at the heart of the metropolis, to reduce transport times even when unforeseen events arise?

Furthermore, keep your customers informed as events develop through real-time flow management. Precise vehicle and parcel tracking systems are paramount to ensure optimal responsiveness to any changes and, if necessary, to alert the recipients in case of a delay. Delivery times are easier to manage when parcel status is available.



Ultimately, logisticians and carriers manage to circumvent obstacles and minimize the impact of large-scale events on their deliveries by skillfully combining all these strategies. 

If you are struggling, feel free to call on an experienced team. At GEODIS, we are accustomed to handling this type of challenge. Our D&E teams recently supervised deliveries throughout the Rugby World Cup, demonstrating great technical mastery. We are prepared for any situation, in terms of both human resources and IT-systems. By capitalizing on data provided by our tools, special deliveries to downtown areas become an opportunity: a chance to innovate, to find alternative solutions, to propose new offers... To reinvent our professions daily, continually improving our services!

Sébastien Faivre

Sébastien Faivre

Distribution & Express Technical and Performance Director

Sébastien FAIVRE has over 30 years' expertise at GEODIS Distribution & Express. In charge of the Technical and Performance Department, surrounded by a team of experts, he defines all the operational processes, develops the tools needed for operations and guarantees the smooth running of the GEODIS FRANCE MESSAGING and EXPRESS network. Our goal is total customer satisfaction.