Curfews on store deliveries are to be lifted for retailers taking part in a government-backed trial of quiet deliveries.

The scheme, which will be run in six areas of England, will test the benefits of relaxing the hours during which deliveries to shops can be made.

“Quiet out-of-hours deliveries can cut congestion, cut pollution and save time and money,” said Transport Minister Paul Clark. “This scheme aims to demonstrate that, with best practice in quiet delivery technologies, a balance can be found between protecting residents and relaxing curfews for a range of locations and store types.”

The scheme was developed by the Department for Transport, the Freight Transport Association and the Noise Abatement Society, and retailers are being invited to apply to take part. The trial will involve retailers working with councils, which will monitor noise levels at each site.

HGV deliveries in urban areas are often constrained at night and weekends. However, this increases traffic and carbon emissions at peak hours.

“Retailers do not want to disturb local residents and by developing this scheme we have come up with much more than just a compromise,” said Natalie Chapman, regional policy manager of the Freight Transport Association. “We are working to show that journey times, fuel economy and air quality, as well as stock turnaround, can be improved without affecting local residents’ sleep.”

Sainsbury’s said it had already experimented with quiet deliveries. “We’re always interested in looking for ways to lengthen delivery slots at our stores without disturbing our neighbours,” said Roseline Holt, Sainsbury’s logistics manager. “Greater flexibility leads to lower emissions, as it means we can deliver during less congested hours, so our lorries can spend less time in traffic.”

In 2007, Sainsbury’s began night-time delivery trials at its Wandsworth store. The ongoing trial has won an innovation award from the Noise Abatement Society.