Abstract

Studies of structure and evolution in the European trucking industry have, possibly mistakenly, predicted the shakeout of small motor carriers and argued that only large carriers will be able to create value to shippers in the long run. This prediction is based on an essentially taken-for-granted premise that in the economic theory of industry evolution, the industry life cycle approach applies to the trucking industry. This article argues that it does, in fact, not apply well to this industry, which possesses characteristics that allow for quite different competitive dynamics. The argument is illustrated empirically by a case study of the Danish trucking industry in the 1990s. The study reveals that the Danish trucking industry moves towards increasingly organized markets with a few large carriers, some specialized and flexible small and medium-sized (SME) carriers with vertical and horizontal linkages, and many small carriers and independent owner-operators serving shippers and other carriers on a short-term basis. Adopting a knowledge-based perspective, the persistent coexistence of small, medium-sized, and large carriers can be attributed to the nature and dynamics of demand, the division of labor between different motor carriers, and changes in productive resources.

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