Mode choice in the logistics sector - Which determinants influence the selection of freight transport modes?

ModEL is a project funded by the FFG, the Austrian Research Funding Agency. The consortium consists of the Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH (AIT), Herry Consult GmbH and the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria (Logistikum Steyr). ModEL aims to research the influence of certain behaviour patterns on mode choices in the logistics sector. A profound understanding of modal decisions is important for two reasons:

  • To promote a modal shift in favour of sustainable transport modes, background knowledge is required on how, why, and which decisions are made when choosing a mode of transport. This enables new logistics concepts to better map the necessary decision bases and achieve a higher level of acceptance.
  • To propagate sustainable modes (and means) of transport, a deep understanding is required of why certain modes and transport models are not or only reluctantly chosen. A survey of behaviour patterns specific to specific groups of people is necessary to be able to develop tailor-made measures for (from a transport policy view) positively influencing modal decisions, which ultimately help to achieve climate objectives.

During the first phase of ModEL a literature review was conducted to define the status quo of research regarding determinants influencing the mode choice. The results of this literature review are presented in this article.

The literature review was conducted using keywords such as ‘mode choice’, ‘freight transport’, ‘age’, ‘gender’ and ‘factor’. The databases Scopus and Emerald Insight were used. The review started in spring 2020 and it ended in autumn 2020. The literature review also involved a forward and backward research to reduce the risk of missing any relevant publications. In total, 94 relevant sources were identified. The following figure sums up the most important determinants which were identified in the literature review. The given references are exemplary, in most cases numerous sources have at least mentioned the factor.

Image: Determinants influencing mode choice (Source: own representation)



Abate et al. 2019


Piendl et al. 2017


Keya et al. 2019


Olkhova et al. 2018


Jensen et al. 2019


Zgonc et al. 2019


Eng‐Larsson und Kohn 2012


Harrod 2019


Stank und Goldsby 2000


Bergantino et al. 2013


Nugroho et al. 2016


Zhao 2018


Neal und Koo 2020


Wu et al. 2020


Ke et al. 2015


Reis 2014


Hwang und Ouyang 2014


Li und Hensher 2012


Arunotayanun und Polak 2011


Khakdaman et al. 2020


Šimeček und Dufek 2016


Samimi et al. 2011


Behrends 2015


Luo und Chen 2012


Avetisyan 2018


La Vega et al. 2018


Mommens et al. 2020


Derakhshan, A., Shah, M. Z. 2013


Elbert und Seikowsky 2017


Holguín-Veras et al. 2011

A variety of factors was found in the existing literature, some occurred very often, e.g. cost/ price, others occurred rather infrequently, like energy. An interesting finding is that even though the literature on factors influencing mode choices is quite comprehensive, literature on the influence of personal characteristics of the decision-maker (e.g. age, gender, education) is absolutely limited.

The determinants are grouped in 12 categories: physical characteristics of location, physical attributes/ characteristics of cargo / shipment characteristics, cost / price, flow and spatial distribution of shipment, modal characteristics, service quality, distributor features, time and urgency, personal experiences/ issues resp. decision-maker (characteristics), organization / company, shipper characteristics, environment / sustainability and other.



  • Short introduction of the project ModEL
  • Literature on the influence of personal characteristics of the decision-maker is absolutely rare
  • Numerous determinants influencing the selection of freight transport modes are illustrated
  • The results of an extensive literature review (94 relevant references) are presented
  • The significance of understanding freight mode choice is underlined


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Arunotayanun, Kriangkrai; Polak, John W. (2011): Taste heterogeneity and market segmentation in freight shippers’ mode choice behaviour. In: Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review 47 (2), S. 138–148. DOI: 10.1016/j.tre.2010.09.003.

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Ke, Jian-yu Fisher; Windle, Robert J.; Han, Chaodong; Britto, Rodrigo (2015): Aligning supply chain transportation strategy with industry characteristics. Evidence from the US-Asia supply chain. In: Int Jnl Phys Dist & Log Manage 45 (9/10), S. 837–860. DOI: 10.1108/IJPDLM-06-2014-0130.

Keya, Nowreen; Anowar, Sabreena; Eluru, Naveen (2019): Joint model of freight mode choice and shipment size: A copula-based random regret minimization framework. In: Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review 125, S. 97–115. DOI: 10.1016/j.tre.2019.03.007.

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