Logistical restructuring and road freight traffic growth: An empirical assessment

Alan C. McKinnon, Allan Woodburn

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    71 Citations (Scopus)


    The forecasting of road freight traffic has relied heavily on the close correlation between GDP and road tonne-kilometers. It has not been rooted in an understanding of the causes of freight traffic growth. The research reported in this paper has investigated this process of traffic growth in two ways: first, by analysing official data on the production, consumption and movement of food and drink products, and second, by conducting a survey of the changing freight transport requirements of 88 large British-based manufacturers. The analysis of secondary data shows how, in the food and drink sector, the relationship between the real value of output and road vehicle-kms hinges on four key parameters: value density, handling factor, average length of haul and consignment size. An attempt is made to explain variations in these parameters. The survey of manufacturers suggests that the growth of lorry traffic is the net result of a complex interaction between factors operating at four levels of logistical management: strategic planning of logistical systems, choice of suppliers and distributors, scheduling of product flow and the management of transport resources. Changes in the frequency and scheduling of freight deliveries in response to tightening customer service requirements and just-in-time management appear to have become a more prevalent cause of freight traffic growth than the physical restructuring of logistical systems. Manufacturers anticipate that their road freight demand will broadly increase in line with sales and be largely unaffected by road transport cost increases at the levels currently proposed. The paper concludes by examining their likely reactions to a much sharper increase in the cost of road freight movement. © 1996 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)141-161
    Number of pages21
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1996


    • Logistical systems
    • Road freight
    • Traffic growth


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