Road restrictions for delivery trucks are contributing to congestion, slowing the flow of goods and services, and creating avoidable air pollution, according to early data from a Peel Region pilot project.

The region partnered with the University of Toronto, York University, and McMaster University to assess the efficiencies that could be realized by lifting municipal restrictions on delivery times. Many roads throughout the GTA prohibit deliveries in off-peak hours –often before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m.—In the name of noise reduction.

Peel Region lifted the restrictions for 13 participating retailers, including Walmart, and 23 per cent of deliveries moved to off-peak hours. The preliminary numbers suggest that the average trip time decreased by 17 per cent as a result.

“Ten to 15 per cent of regional roadway congestion is trucks,” said Sebastian Prins of the Retail Council of Canada. “It reduced congestion, it’s efficient for business and saves us fuel, and also has great environmental impact as well.”

The less time delivery trucks spend idling in traffic, the less carbon dioxide they emit. With fewer trucks on the road during peak times, traffic moves more quickly overall and the other vehicles idle less too.

The Atmospheric Fund calls it a win in the fight against climate change.

“In terms of extreme heat and weather, Lyme disease is increasing, serious weather events that are leading to floods in our region, these things are all expected to get worse over time. So the faster we deal with them, the more can mitigate those.”

Similar delivery rules have been used in parts of New York City, and the chair of Peel Region says the early data indicate the model could a success in other parts of the GTA too.

“The point is, we have to find a smarter way of taking the infrastructure that we have to deliver goods and services,” said Nando Iannicca.

But the City of Toronto is more cautious.

"Delivery of freight and goods can be noisy work, especially after hours," spokesperson Eric Holmes told CTV News Toronto.

"City noise bylaws in many areas of the city prohibit elevated noise levels during off-peak hours."

In 2015, Toronto piloted off-peak deliveries, but determined that in many instances the noise levels were above the bylaw standards.

Toronto officials are, however, working on strategy for freight movement that considers solutions for the noise implications of off-peak deliveries.

Peel Region, meanwhile, received no noise complaints during its latest pilot.

“The savings and the carbon footprint, it’s just a win-win all around,” Iannicca said.