Crowd logistics: an opportunity for more sustainable urban freight transport?

Heleen Buldeo Rai, Sara Verlinde, Jan Merckx, Cathy Macharis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

174 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Passenger car occupancy has been falling for years. Partly empty vehicles on our road networks decrease passenger transport sustainability but also contain an opportunity for freight transport. Within Crowd logistics (CL), delivery operations are carried out by using passengers’ excess capacity on journeys that are already taking place, resulting in economic, social and environmental benefits. Existing CL initiatives show, however, that there are important differences between concepts in terms of sustainability. The research aims to develop a suitable and comprehensive definition for CL and identify which factors determine the sustainability potential of CL. Methods: We systematically analysed a set of 42 papers and interviewed 11 logistics practitioners in order to capture the state of practice. Results: Following the literature and interviews, we firstly define CL as ‘an information connectivity enabled marketplace concept that matches supply and demand for logistics services with an undefined and external crowd that has free capacity with regards to time and/or space, participates on a voluntary basis and is compensated accordingly’. Secondly, we identify a set of 18 characteristics that can describe the variety of CL concepts. Thirdly, we indicate whether the identified characteristics affect the economy, society and/or environment. The research shows that all characteristics influence economic sustainability while 11 characteristics also affect social and/or environmental sustainability. Conclusions: Our research helps local policy-makers to adapt laws and regulations to the sharing economy developments and provides insight for businesses which CL concept fits their company’s corporate social responsibility strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number39
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Transport Research Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2017


  • City logistics
  • Crowd logistics
  • Crowdshipping
  • Sustainability
  • Urban freight transport


Dive into the research topics of 'Crowd logistics: an opportunity for more sustainable urban freight transport?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this