Innovations in freight transport: A systematic literature evaluation and COVID implications
International Journal of Logistics Management
School of Business and Law
Purpose: This paper systematically evaluates the existing literature of innovations in freight transport, including all modes, to uncover the key research themes and methodologies employed by researchers to study innovations and their implications in this industry. It analyses the role of transport and the impact of innovations during crises, such as COVID-19. Design/methodology/approach: Qualitative and quantitative analysis of the innovations in freight transport unravels the pre-requisites of such endeavours in achieving a resilient and sustainable transport network that effectively and efficiently operates during a crisis. The authors performed keyword co-occurrence network (KCON) analysis and research focus parallelship network (RFPN) analysis using BibExcel and Gephi to determine the major resulting research streams in freight transport. Findings: The RFPN identified five emerging themes: transport operations, technological innovation, transport economics, transport policy and resilience and disaster management. Optimisation and simulation techniques, and more recently, artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) approaches, have been used to model and solve freight transport problems. Automation innovations have also penetrated freight and supply chains. Information and communication technology (ICT)-based innovations have also been found to be effective in building resilient supply chains. Research limitations/implications: Given the growth of e-commerce during COVID-19 and the resulting logistics demand, along with the need for transporting food and medical emergency products, the role of automation, optimisation, monitoring systems and risk management in the transport industry has become more salient. Transport companies need to improve their operational efficiency using innovative technologies and data science for informed decision-making. Originality/value: This paper advises researchers and practitioners involved in freight transport and innovation about main directions and gaps in the field through an integrated approach for evaluating research undertaken in the area. This paper also highlights the role of crisis, e.g. COVID-19, and its impacts on freight transport. Major contributions of this paper are as follows: (1) a qualitative and quantitative, systematic and effective assessment of the literature on freight transport through a network analysis of keywords supplemented by a review of the text of 148 papers; (2) unravelling major research areas; (3) identifying innovations in freight transport and their classification as technological and non-technological and (4) investigating the impact of crises and disruptions in freight transport.