To read this content please select one of the options below:

Modal shift for greener logistics – the shipper's perspective

Fredrik Eng‐Larsson (Department of Industrial Management and Logistics, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)
Christofer Kohn (McKinsey & Company, SCM Practice/Lund University, Stockholm, Sweden)

International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management

ISSN: 0960-0035

Article publication date: 27 January 2012




A commonly suggested measure to make logistics greener is a shift to intermodal road‐rail transportation. Most research addresses the issue from the carrier's perspective, arguing for ways to improve the service production to better fit the shippers' demand. In this article the issue is addressed from the shipper's perspective. The purpose is to understand what contextual factors and operations changes that are possible and/or necessary for the shipper to make a fit to the current production system.


Six case companies selling non‐bulk, fast moving goods are examined. These firms have gone against the mainstream and shifted modes of transport. They are investigated through a multiple case‐study design.


The findings indicate that contextual factors stressed in the carrier‐focused literature, or rule of thumb decisions made by shipping logistics management, do not always clearly predict the success of a modal shift. However, some common denominators emerge among successful cases: large transport purchasing resources, high general carrier performance, low demand volatility, and centralized system control. The study also poses some propositions regarding the success of a modal shift.

Research limitations/implications

The research is qualitative in nature and thus limited to the companies and their respective logistics systems. However, the models could be further evaluated empirically through quantitative and qualitative methods alike.

Practical implications

The paper poses a number of propositions of what constitutes a successful modal shift from a shipper's perspective, based on the identified factors and operational changes.


Previous research on the shift to intermodal road‐rail solutions are predominantly made from a carrier's perspective. This research addresses the issue from the shipper's perspective.



Eng‐Larsson, F. and Kohn, C. (2012), "Modal shift for greener logistics – the shipper's perspective", International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 42 No. 1, pp. 36-59.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles