Project Background

This study will analyse collaborative logistics strategies to minimise empty running, maximise vehicle utilisation for road freight movements in the UK, and therefore reduce CO2 emissions. It will provide managers with quantitative estimates of the potential reductions in truck-km, energy and emissions, for the various logistics strategies and qualitative assessments of the managerial procedures required to plan and implement these options. 

Research Objectives 

  1. Create new collaborative networks at the whole system level within which groups of companies can consolidate loads and share truck capacity: Examples exist for logistics collaboration with a limited number of companies but collaboration involving large groups of companies is still only a theoretical concept. The benefits, constraints and collaborative mechanisms for industry-wide sharing of road freight transport capacity require more analysis for real-world implementation
  2. Optimisation of deliveries by relaxing delivery time windows: Strict delivery time windows have a significant impact on utilisation of vehicles. Example - relaxing delivery time windows by half an hour can provide cost and carbon savings. The use of tactical data from logistics operations will allow optimisation of collaborative logistics networks by relaxing delivery time windows
  3. Optimisation of networks outside operational boundaries by forming a coalition: The logistics operations are optimised well within the operational boundaries of a company. However, opportunities exist outside the operational boundaries of a company. It’s important to evaluate the best way of organising a coalition scenario to reduce cost and carbon emissions from a distribution network. This includes: 
  • Backhaul opportunities - reducing empty running by ensuring a vehicle can collect cost efficient return loads within service level constraints  
  • Consolidation of small deliveries - the combination of part loads originating from depots located near to each other and destined for the same, or nearby, customer locations: effectively co-loading 
  • Use of regional consolidation centres - channeling part-loads through a consolidation centre in each region whose location would be optimized with respect to inbound and outbound part load flows and enabling full load movements between regions
  • Consideration of logistics clusters – co-locating of company depots in a cluster to enable consolidation of all flows and enabling full load movements between clusters
  • Optimisation of urban freight and use of urban consolidation centres – to receive consolidated part loads from depots or regional consolidation centres some distance from cities and to make freight movement within cities more efficient
  • Supply chain network collaboration – all the other collaborative strategies will be using current origin and destination flows but there may be better collaborative opportunities if a company changes a flow from one distribution centre to another to take advantage of a more cost effective collaboration   
  • Multi modal opportunities - being able to achieve critical mass for train movements has been one of the main reasons for not using rail. With the volume from a large number of UK companies the use of modes of transport other than road will be examined
  • Port centric opportunities – with significant imports and exports, is it more cost and environmentally effective to hold stock collaboratively at ports rather than move them to an inland distribution centre 


Primary data collection from FMCG companies that include flows between origins and destinations, quantity delivered, depot locations, delivery time windows and type of vehicles used.  It will use a combination of agent-based model and heuristics to analyse various collaborative logistics strategies.  

Project Leads/ Supervisors