INFLUENCING LOAD FACTOR IN TRANSPORT OPERATIONS: A LITERATURE REVIEW
Paper in proceedings, 2014
One key variable for improving efficiency in freight transport systems is to increase the load factor; the ratio of the actual load carried to the maximum load that could have been carried. A high load factor in transport operations is of interest for several reasons; to lower costs and to reduce environmental impact. Shippers have a large influence on transport operations e.g. through choices concerning packaging, loading and planning. Therefore, it is of interest what opportunities there are for shippers to improve load factor.
Meanwhile, there are few studies focusing on load factor. Since load factor is often one of many aspects examined when discussing wider topics, such as transport efficiency, the research on load factor is dispersed. Thus, it is difficult to get an overview of the subject, in particular to identify opportunities from a shipper’s perspective.
To address the lack of overview of research on load factor as well as how specific actors, in particular shippers, can increase load factor, the purpose of this paper is to structure how academic literature has described how load factor can be influenced, with a specific focus on the role of shippers.
Research approach: An extensive literature search in scholarly journals was performed on load factor terms using Summon search tool. A total of 473 articles were identified, where 29 articles discussed factors that influence load factor (determinants). Literature was categorized according to focus on load factor, actor perspective, mode of transport covered, how load factor is measured and determinants of load factor.
Findings and Originality: The literature review identifies determinants of load factor within warehousing; order and delivery; packaging and loading; transport operations; information sharing and IT; and regulations. Surprisingly few studies discuss determinants, especially from the perspective of a shipper. The literature review shows a lack of detailed descriptions of determinants of load factor. Also, it is difficult to gain reliable data about load factor and consequently also compare results between studies. Suggested research areas include how shippers can increase load factor in their transports, detailed descriptions of how determinants influence load factor as well as how load factor performance can be measured; e.g. through standardized measuring methods. This research is unique since it is the first, to our knowledge, review on determinants of load factor.
Research impact: This literature review contributes with an overview of the dispersed research on load factor, structured according to determinants of load factor. Areas of interest for future research are suggested.
Practical impact: The overview of determinants is useful for shippers, specifically logistics managers in order to gain understanding of their role when aiming for improved load factor.