Factors influencing transport buyer’s choice of transport service – A European literature review
Paper in proceeding, 2010

The choice of transport service is a key issue in understanding the transport market and designing a competitive transport system. The customers’ choice of transport service is based on a number of factors that are considered and weighted against each other. For a transport service provider, e.g. a forwarder or a haulier, it is of key importance to understand which factors are important to the customer. Several studies have investigated the determining factors for the choice of a transport service. A review of the studies has been made in this research in order to compare and synthesize the previous findings on transport service choices. The review focuses on studies published in the English and Scandinavian languages after the year 1990. It includes studies on European conditions where the actual opinion of the transport customer has been studied through interviews and surveys, and does not include modelling approaches or analyses based on statistical data of the transport service choice. It is a fact that the knowledge about the transport service choice lies with the person making the decision. Although, studying the attitude of these people is often more challenging than other approaches, it is our opinion that these studies come closest to revealing the reasons for the transport service choice. The review includes a short overview of the studies and the methods used. The review finds that the important core factors in choosing transport services are cost, transport time, reliability and transport quality. After ensuring that the basic transport quality requirements are met (e.g. on-time deliveries, transport damages, transport times), most of the decisions are made based on price. However, the willingness to pay for lower environmental impact is low. Rail is perceived as being more environmental friendly, although several studies mention a negative attitude towards rail. The literature survey covers 1990 to 2009 and includes a structured overview of the leading academic journals, academic reports and dissertations complemented by non peer-reviewed reports from the Scandinavian countries. Although there is a potential difference in research quality between peer-reviewed and non-peer reviewed reports, a significant share of publications is only published on-line and in other types of reports, and to ignore this research bears the risk of missing relevant studies. The peer-reviewed and non-peer reviewed sources have been kept separate in the analysis. Both groups indicate the same important factors, and it is striking to notice the complete agreement between the groups. The inclusion of non-peer reviewed sources has thus increased the validity of the review and broadened the scope and in-depth understanding of the transport service choice. The research methods used in the studies, e.g. stated preferences, are also included in the analysis, and it is found that the different methods have similar results. What separates this literature review from previous reviews is the focus on the actual mapping of real customer attitudes and preferences and also the widened scope, which includes non-peer reviewed sources.


modal choice

mode selection

literature review

Transport service choice



Jonas Flodén

University of Gothenburg

Fredrik Bärthel

University of Gothenburg

Edith Sorkina

University of Gothenburg

The 12th WCTR Proceedings


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Business Administration

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