Companies in European over-the-road truckload transportation operate in a highly competitive environment characterized by volatile demand, a high turnover of operators entering and exiting the market, hence low – often negative – profit margins. The market is fragmented among thousands of carriers that offer similar, easy to substitute types of service. Carriers traditionally tend to do business in a craft-like way, where standardization of processes, professional operations planning and control, and systematic uses of management and engineering technologies are not common. In order to survive in the current hostile environment and to successfully meet the challenges and opportunities of the future, European truckload operators must find new ways to increase the efficiency and professionalism of their operations.
This research deals with the question of whether the ‘industrialization’ of transportation operations is a promising approach for European truckload carriers to enhance their efficiency and chances of long-term survival. This question is based on observations of the U.S. truck transport industry. Since the deregulation of the U.S. land transport markets in 1980 a number of ‘Advanced Truckload Firms’ (ATLFs) have achieved remarkable growth and financial success by applying the principles of industrialization.
Using a mix of qualitative and quantitative research methods this study seeks to identify specific elements of industrialization in truckload transportation and assess their applicability to European truckload operations. As a result 27 specific recommendations are derived about how carriers can improve the efficiency and attractiveness of their operations by ‘industrializing’ their transportation networks.