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Research in Freight Transport and Logistics
This book chapter identifies topics that are likely to be major growth areas for future research in freight transport and logistics. After decades of relative neglect by the academic transport community, the movement of freight is now attracting much more attention from researchers. This can be largely attributed to four factors. First, the recognition that freight transport is an integral part of logistics systems brought a new managerial perspective and focused attention on the inter-relationship between transport and business processes. Second, freight transport operations and markets are on the eve of major technological disruption. On the hardware side, 3D printing, truck automation and platooning, delivery robots, drones and electrified highways, and software developments such as the blockchain, Big Data, the internet of things, the Physical Internet, uberization and the crowdsourcing of deliveries are currently stimulating high levels of research activity. Third, in terms of climate change, freight transport will be a ‘hard-to-mitigate’ sector because of its high projected growth rate and heavy dependence on fossil fuels. This, when combined with the freight sector’s many other externalities, makes the movement of goods an obvious target for environmental research. Finally, freight has risen up the public policy agenda creating an increasing demand for evidence on issues such as the pressure to increase truck size and weight limits, the truck driver shortage, modal shift to rail and night-time delivery. This book chapter provides an overview of all these topics, outlining the research challenges they pose and the methodological advances that will be needed to address them.
This discussion of a future research agenda for freight transport and logistics is not prescriptive. As I acknowledge in the conclusion, ‘Plotting possible directions for future research in a field is inevitably a subjective process in which one exhibits biases in favour of particular topics and methodologies.’
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