Campus Units

Supply Chain and Information Systems

Document Type


Publication Version

Accepted Manuscript

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

International Journal of Logistics Management, The




Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the impacts of the ongoing freight market deregulation in the European Union (EU). Specifically, this case study focuses on cabotage penetration rates in Germany, the largest logistics market in Europe. In light of the upcoming trade barriers, we intend to move this topic forward by emphasising its interdisciplinary nature.

Design/methodology/approach Based on the analysis of Eurostat data, expert interviews and a review of related literature, we elaborate and discuss four propositions related to the factors affecting cabotage penetration, future cabotage levels and the effects on modal split and empty runs.

Findings We found that cabotage in Germany plays a more important role than officially reported and has increased drastically since 2008. Given our analysis, increased cabotage penetration seems to thwart efforts within the EU to promote a modal shift from road to rail and increased national empty runs are the future outcome of current regulations. In Germany, the cabotage share is likely to reach 16% in the next five years.

Research limitations/implications This paper highlights the need for incorporating a more contextual understanding in freight carrier selection theory development in general as well as country-specific investigations in particular.

Practical implications Logistics managers and policymakers looking at future strategies are advised to take the ongoing deregulation trend into consideration. European freight movement using cabotage operators may represent significant cost savings; however, these cost savings come at an environmental and social sustainability price as the modal shift to rail and fill rates suffer.

Originality/value This paper represents an empirical and unbiased point of view, in contrast to the reports of the European Commission (pro-deregulation) or the reports of the haulage associations and labour unions (anti-deregulation).


This accepted article is published as Sternberg, H.S., Hofmann, E. and Overstreet, R.E. (2020), "Perils of road freight market deregulation: cabotage in the European Union", International Journal of Logistics Management, The, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. doi: 10.1108/IJLM-12-2018-0321. Posted with permission.

Copyright Owner

Emerald Publishing Limited



File Format


Published Version