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Benchmarking road freight transport: Review of a government‐sponsored programme

Alan C. McKinnon (Logistics Research Centre, Heriot‐Watt University, Edinburgh, UK)

Benchmarking: An International Journal

ISSN: 1463-5771

Article publication date: 28 August 2009




The purpose of this paper is to provide a critical review of the first ten years of the UK Government's “transport key performance indicator (KPI)” programme which benchmarks the efficiency of road freight operations.


Documentation on nine benchmarking surveys is reviewed and combined with direct experience of programme's implementation to assess the general approach, the synchronised auditing procedure used, the choice of KPIs and resulting benefits to stakeholders.


The programme illustrates how a benchmarking programme can become an instrument of government policy heightening awareness of best practice in freight transport and potential efficiency gains. It has been shown, across various industry supply chains, that similar distribution operations can have markedly different energy intensity. The programme has, nevertheless, been deficient in several respects. Too little attention has been given to the inter‐relationship with other logistical activities, the causes of observed differences in efficiency and subsequent changes in company behaviour.

Research limitations/implications

Most of the benchmarking exercises have lacked follow‐up surveys to enquire about the costs and benefits of company participation. Such surveys should become an integral part of future transport KPI projects.

Practical implications

The UK Government has pioneered this form of transport benchmarking. Other governments and organisations can learn from its experience, particularly in dealing with the practical problems of recruiting companies, balancing government and industry requirements and ensuring consistency.


The government‐sponsored programme of freight transport benchmarking reviewed in this paper is unique. This is the first attempt to summarise its achievements and findings since its launch in 1997.



McKinnon, A.C. (2009), "Benchmarking road freight transport: Review of a government‐sponsored programme", Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol. 16 No. 5, pp. 640-656.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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