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The empty running and return loading of road goods vehicles

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The proportion of lorry-kilometres run empty in the UK declined by 11% between 1982 and 1993, yielding significant economic and environmental benefits. This paper examines possible reasons for this trend and identifies five contributory factors: the lengthening of lorry journeys, increasing number of drops per trip, expansion of load-matching services, growth in the reverse flow of packaging material/handling equipment and greater effort by shippers to obtain return loads. Original survey data are used to classify and rank the different types of return loading in which manufacturers and retailers engage. Company responses suggest that backloading is likely to increase significantly, though still be subject to numerous constraints. The paper examines these constraints in detail and suggests ways in which they might be relaxed. The development of supply chain management, advances in vehicle routeing software and increasing road transport costs are likely to promote more balanced vehicle loading.


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