Taste heterogeneity and latent preferences in the choice behaviour of freight transport operators
In this paper we show that individual attitudes of road carriers and their latent preferences toward specific freight service attributes do play a role in determining their mode choices. Specifically, we contribute to the empirical literature on freight agents' mode choice by exploring the role of the "perceived importance" of the most relevant service dimensions in determining the attractiveness of two alternatives to "all-road" transport: logistics terminals and road-sea intermodal services. This is carried out through a revealed/stated preference experiment and a mixture of logit framework. Our results support the hypothesis that operators' attitudes towards time, punctuality and risk of loss/damage can significantly enhance the explanatory power of the choice model, thus providing useful information for policy-makers to improve the regional freight mobility system. The "all road" option is preferred by hauliers concerned with the risk of loss/damage but it is, instead, disregarded by those assigning great relevance to punctuality. We also found substantial heterogeneity among respondents: larger firms tend to assign a lower value to time but a higher importance to the risk of loss/damage, especially if shipments are not frequent. In addition, the relevance of service reliability is higher the reliability greater the load size. Finally, we find that the nature of the transported goods significantly influences the choices of operators: when consigning perishables, hauliers tend to prefer the flexibility of a road-related mode. Any policy aiming at fostering the growth of intermodal transport and logistics and to remove obstacles to implementing rationalisation policies in the field of freight transport should take account of these elements. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.