Expert consensus is that ICT can enable substantial sustainability improvement (Huschebeck et al., 2009 and Belella et al, 2009). While transport of people has gained substantial research interest it is still unclear how freight transport operations can be improved (Sternberg, 2011b). Usually significant effects (so called “aggregated level” effects) of ICT can only be achieved if several organizations adopt ICT and collaborate on streamlining business processes.
As outlined, two major roads (or a combination) ahead are available. The first is legislation and forcing transport operators to invest in ICT (e.g., by toll systems, enforcing information sharing of transport services etc.). The second is nurturing ICT-adoption by promoting a business case. It is not feasible that the transport operators will be able to increase operating revenue, thus a business case must be based upon cost reduction. The largest cost of road transport operators is the staff cost (contrary to common belief, it is not vehicle operating costs) and ICT has in the short-term a significant potential to enable cost reduction (ibid). Though ITS can reduce the duration of the transport time (e.g., by less congestion), the major cost reduction is if processes related to the interface (i.e., loading/unloading and information sharing) between the transport operators and the other supply chain actors can be smoothened (Fugate et al., 2009).
In the table below, both actions related to legislation and ICT adoption nurturing are outlined. . To achieve large-scale benefits of ICT, not only do infrastructure holders but all involved stakeholders, including e.g. trucking companies, need to invest in more advanced ICT. SME-operators need clear incentives to invest, i.e., apparent business case or legislation, before significant aggregate level benefits of ICT are achievable. This is previously known as the Chicken-and-egg problem of ICT (Sternberg et al., 2011).
As shown in the table, short-term R&D actions should be carried out looking for convincing business cases and legislation frameworks for SMEs. The piloting phase, up to 2016, should aim at demonstrating SME ICT best practices, leading to large-scale adoption of these best practices – supported by national policies – in 2020.