INSTITUTIONAL INFLUENCES ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF URBAN FREIGHT
TRANSPORT POLICIES BY LOCAL AUTHORITIES
Emine Zehra Akgün1 and Jason Monios2
1 Transport Research Institute, Edinburgh Napier University, Merchiston Campus,
Edinburgh, EH10 5DT, United Kingdom
2 Kedge Business School, Domaine de Luminy, Rue Antoine Bourdelle, 13009 Marseille,
This is the pre-published version of the text. The final published chapter can be found in:
Akgün, E. Z., Monios, J. (2018). Institutional influences on the development of urban freight
transport policies by local authorities. In: Shiftan, Y., Kamargianni, M (Eds). Preparing for
the New Era of Transport Policies: Learning from Experience. Elsevier: Cambridge, MA. Pp.
Urban freight transport (UFT) provides the last mile delivery of goods, return of unwanted or
recyclable goods and the removal of waste. Despite such benefits, freight vehicles often cause
adverse impacts on the economy, environment and society such as air pollution, reduced
mobility, congestion and road casualties. Local authorities implement various regulations and
initiatives to mitigate the problems caused by freight vehicles and to decrease conflicts
between various road users. The aim of this chapter is to investigate how institutional
influences on local authorities determine urban freight transport policy, paying particular
attention to three pressure factors (coercive, normative and mimetic) that cause institutional
isomorphism. The empirical study compares three countries (Scotland, England and Sweden)
based on data collected from 11 cities, each exhibiting different levels of intervention in
terms of UFT policy. Our findings showed that the impact of normative and mimetic factors
on local authorities is more intense than the impact of coercive factors, with social pressure
generally being stronger than national government mandate. The case cities in England and
particularly Scotland demonstrated a limited vision when incorporating urban freight in their
local transport planning, being reluctant to enforce restrictions on users in order to meet
urban freight goals. By contrast, evidence from Sweden suggests that a better relationship
between public and private stakeholders makes it easier to implement freight policies in
Keywords: urban freight transport (UFT), city logistics, policy, institutional isomorphism
The aim of this chapter is to investigate how institutional influences on local authorities
determine urban freight transport (UFT) policy. Commercial freight vehicles provide the last
mile deliveries of goods, return of unwanted or recyclable goods and the removal of waste.
Therefore, UFT is one of the important factors keeping cities functioning. The importance of
freight transport in urban areas has grown in parallel to the increasing population of cities and
economic growth (Browne, et al., 2012)
UFT consists of activities such as loading and unloading, parking, storage and consolidation,
which require significant use of urban space (Dablanc, 2007). These activities require a
certain degree of interaction between different stakeholders, who can be public authorities
(national, regional or local), retailers (e.g. shops, hotels, restaurants), and other road users
such as buses, cars, bikes and pedestrians. Each stakeholder has different needs and
objectives concerning space, mobility, accessibility and safety and sometimes these
objectives contradict each other.
Despite its benefits, UFT often comes into question due to the adverse impacts that freight
vehicles cause on the environment. Road transport is the dominant mode of freight
distribution in cities. Although the share of freight vehicles compared to non-freight vehicles
in overall road traffic is relatively low, they produce a disproportionate contribution to
emissions, congestion, and road casualties (Lindholm & Blinge, 2014; Kin et al. 2017). In
addition, UFT contributes to reduced mobility and accessibility in urban areas as goods
vehicles occupy road capacity as well as pavements (Dablanc et al., 2013; Kin et al., 2017).
Public authorities implement various regulations and initiatives to mitigate the problems
caused by freight vehicles. Local authorities (i.e. municipalities or city councils) are the
primary organizations that are responsible for enforcing policies on local roads. Local
policies aim to decrease conflicts between various road users by providing space for different
transport modes, increasing mobility and accessibility for vulnerable road users.
Facing such challenges and conflicting stakeholder demands, there are many influences on
the transport policies eventually implemented by local authorities, and UFT is no exception.
Policies are not chosen simply by their necessity or effectiveness but also to some degree by
institutional influences according to what is expected by various stakeholders and what is
done in other cities. Yet very little research has addressed the institutional component of
UFT. Rose et al. (2016) applied the theory of institutional isomorphism (DiMaggio and
Powell, 1983) to explore the coercive and mimetic pressures on logistics service providers.
The coercive pressures identified come from the constrained space and finite resources of the
urban transport environment, leading to management challenges across the public and private
sectors. They concluded that freight operators represent a lower priority for public authorities,
thus in order to overcome this problem the operators face mimetic pressures to work with the
public sector in certain authorised ways in order to be considered legitimate members in the
In order to explore the institutional influences on UFT policy, this chapter also uses the
theoretical perspective of institutional isomorphism, but in contrast to the study of Rose et al.
(2016) applying it to private operators, this study addresses the public sector side, using
empirical data from an analysis of eleven local authorities in three countries: Scotland,
England and Sweden. Local authorities are core units of decision making when it comes to
the organization of traffic and roads at the city level and they are under the influence of
various factors when planning and organizing particular elements, including freight. They
implement their policies while trying to keep local, regional and national requirements in
balance, while also interacting with many other public and private organizations, particularly
freight transport operators and users.
Institutional theory concerns the fact that organizations are heavily influenced by their
institutional environment. The institutional structure of this environment can lead to the
emergence of particular forms of organizational structure as well as being related to the
development and implementation of individual policies which are seen as legitimate and
acceptable. Some of this behaviour is derived not purely from the policy goals but from a
desire on behalf of the organization to gain legitimacy. The theory of institutional
isomorphism developed by DiMaggio and Powell (1983) suggests that particular pressures
lead organizations to resemble each other. The pressure factors fall under three categories:
coercive, normative and mimetic. In this chapter, the isomorphism is not just the
organisational form but also how they are represented in the policies that are selected.
Each of these factors influence local authorities’ decisions concerning to what extent they
will involve UFT in their local planning and which policies they will implement to mitigate
related problems, and, importantly, how interventionist they will be. The empirical element of
this chapter is based on interviews and document analysis across the eleven cities. Their
institutional environment, organizational structure, policy development process and current
UFT policies were analysed according to the three pressures that lead to institutional
isomorphism, in order to determine whether these cities have indeed adopted similar
organizational forms and policy choices, and which of the three influences were strongest.
2. Designing policy for the urban freight transport sector
Local authorities introduce policies to prevent all road users from potential threats caused by
vehicle traffic in cities and to provide a prosperous and safe environment for residents,
workers and visitors (Lindholm & Blinge, 2014). Local authorities regulate road traffic
concerning particular issues such as road safety, transportation of dangerous goods, air
quality standards, freight deliveries during particular hours (e.g. night-time delivery bans).
Economic activities and the geographical clustering of these activities heavily affect the
traffic flow coming into and going out of cities, and there is a risk that interferences between
different systems may make one or more system dysfunctional. For instance, illegal parking
in loading-only bays or cycle lanes is a very common problem, which constrains the mobility
of different road users.
Local authorities need to establish their local transport strategies and plans by considering the
complex nature of the multiple transport systems. Despite the fact that local authorities
increasingly recognise UFT in transport planning (Browne et al., 2007), policy makers in
general have paid limited attention to designing specific UFT policies (Lindholm and Blinge,
2014). Passenger transport is generally prioritized over freight transport in cities, and when
freight is considered it is at the national and international levels (Savy, 2012). Local
authorities require advanced knowledge concerning how logistics systems work at the urban
level, what transport requirements exist for various delivery operations (e.g. vehicle routing,
demand planning, and delivery schedules) and demand patterns of customers. They need
knowledge in order to implement effective freight policies and to be able to incorporate the
needs of other transport systems (Lindholm & Blinge, 2014). The lack of attention is not
particular only to local authorities but also national and regional authorities often lack
dedicated bodies that deal with freight transport related issues in cities (van Duin & Quak,
According to Cui et al. (2015), centralized national governments can make decisions
concerning transport policies, planning and investments, which are insensitive to local
transport issues. On the other hand, historically, national governments have an indirect
influence on UFT through infrastructure and maintenance, land use policies and sometimes
even providing funding for projects (Wittlöv, 2012). In recent years, public authorities have
increased their understanding and awareness through putting more effort into data collection,
cooperating with other stakeholders and participating in national and international projects
(Ballantyne et al., 2013; Lindholm and Browne, 2013; Ballantyne and Lindholm, 2014). The
awareness of public authorities in developing effective freight and logistics increases in
connection with the increasing awareness of the benefits of logistics as well as the adverse
effects of road transport. Logistics as a sector supports local economies and ensures that
people living in cities receive goods and services at the right time and place. However, freight
vehicles are also sources of air pollution, road casualties and congestion.
There are various policy actions that have been taken in order to assess the challenges of
urban traffic including freight vehicles; however, these policies aim to restrict freight vehicles
either for a period of time or on an ongoing basis such as time window restrictions, size
restrictions and route maps (i.e. showing recommended and mandatory routes for vehicles).
Even though these types of restrictions are becoming more common, they may not reflect the
rapidly changing dynamics of urban economies and cities in the long run and they may have
adverse effects on cities’ economies as well as the environment (Macharis & Kin, 2017). This
is mainly because consumers and markets are constantly going through changes that affect
consumption patterns (e.g. increased variety of products, free shipping) and delivery patterns
(e.g. same day or next day deliveries) (Kin, et al., 2017). This situation causes many
commercial vehicles with very low fill rates to drive in cities, adding to the existing problems
concerning congestion and air pollution.
Considering these changes and the challenges of urban areas, public authorities should be
able to take further steps towards implementing policies that aim to improve UFT and to
reduce adverse effects caused by UFT. Public authorities enforce policies such as time
window restrictions or size restrictions and they often do not undertake any deep consultation
with other stakeholders such as freight operators or receivers before implementing such
policies. On the other hand, if public authorities (both local and national level) want to
implement effective freight-focused policies, they need to involve other stakeholders in data
acquisition (Gatta and Marcucci, 2016) and the policy design process (Stathopoulous et al.,
2012), and they need to create partnerships that guarantee long-term relations and mutual
understanding (Lindholm & Browne, 2013). Such early stakeholder involvement can lead
public authorities to have a better understanding of the needs of freight operators and
receivers. In addition, public authorities can communicate their objectives with operators and
receivers concerning society, environment and the economy more clearly. It also helps public
authorities to understand potential consequences of planned policies on logistics operations of
As local authorities shift their perspectives more towards implementing freight focused and
effective policies, there are various types of policies developed either by local authorities or
developed as a result of a partnership between public institutions and private organizations.
Each of these policies aims to address one or more UFT challenges. Clean air policies, low
emission vehicles, consolidation solutions, designated loading and unloading zones, road
pricing systems, real time information systems, shared use of public transport infrastructure
and developing night-time delivery schemes are policies which are being observed in
different cities. Yet Kiba-Janiak (2017) showed how different cities can be located at
different points along a spectrum according to how “mature” they are in terms of taking an
active role in UFT policy, with many cities only implementing very few or basic policies.
3. Institutional theory and institutional isomorphism
Institutions are emergent and higher order factors above the individual level (Amenta &
Ramsey, 2010). Institutions are made of governance structures, social arrangements, norms
and rules. They are bounded by informal constraints such as sanctions, customs and traditions
and also by formal rules such as constitutions and laws (North, 1991). Various political,
economic, cultural and social aspects shape behaviours, perceptions and choices of
institutions. Their existence is based on certain economic and social motivations. North
(1991; p.97) stated the economic reason as “Together with the standard constraints of
economics they define the choice set and therefore determine transaction and production
costs and hence the profitability and feasibility of engaging in economic activity.” Institutions
also evolve over time. As they evolve, the direction of economic and social change within
them takes different forms towards growth, stagnation or decline.
Organizational theorists consider that institutions are the results of human activities but they
are not outcomes of conscious design (DiMaggio & Powell, 1991). Neo-institutional theorists
have had a strong influence on organizational analysis and form the basis of the theoretical
approach taken in this chapter (drawing on Meyer and Rowan, 1977; DiMaggio and Powell,
1983). Yet both old and new institutionalism include many common aspects such as viewing
institutionalization as a state dependent process. In this process, governments limit
organizations’ choices that they can pursue and organizations become less instrumentally
rational. However, the structural emphasis of new institutionalism is on the symbolic role of
formal structure, including inter-organizational influences, conformity, and persuasiveness of
cultural accounts rather than the functions that they are intended to perform (DiMaggio and
Powell, 1991). When it comes to organizational dynamics, new institutionalism identifies a
reduction in variety, emphasis on homogeneity of organizations, and highlights stability as
well as persistence of institutionalized components (Zucker, 1977; DiMaggio and Powell,
Neo-institutionalists argue that an organization's survival depends on its fit with the cultural
environment and its ability to gain social legitimacy. This means that an organization's
success depends on whether it adopts structures that are considered as rational and legitimate
in the external environment. Organizations mirror environmental beliefs about what a
legitimate organization of that type should look like. Such actions can lead to institutional
isomorphism, which can be defined as a process of developing the same organizational
forms. DiMaggio and Powell (1983, pp.63-64) explain reasons that pave the way towards
isomorphism as “Structural change in organizations seems less and less driven by
competition or need for efficiency. Instead, we contend, bureaucratization and other forms of
organizational change occur as a result of processes that make organizations more similar
without necessarily making them more efficient.” Neo-institutionalism emphasizes the
prevailing influence of institutions on human behaviour through rules, norms and beliefs,
which fall under three categories and each category triggers its own isomorphism process;
these are regulations, normative controls and cognitive controls.
Regulations or regulatory institutions are an explicit form of institutional control. They
constrain behaviours through rules, laws, and behaviour inducements such as incentives and
punishments. These pressure factors cause coercive isomorphism (DiMaggio & Powell,
1983), where isomorphism occurs as a direct response to government mandate. The second
established institutional control is normative. Normative controls guide what organizations
should and should not do, or how they should and should not appear. Normative control
involves informal rules and guidelines, but they are just as influential on organizational
behaviour as laws and regulations, because they guide behaviours of organizations through a
logic of appropriateness, sense of duty or awareness of what should be done. According to
DiMaggio and Powell (1983: p.70), normative isomorphism stems primarily from
professionalization, which has been described as “collective struggle of members of an
occupation to define the conditions and methods of their work.” Normative isomorphism
drives compliance by social obligations and its indicators are certifications and accreditation.
According to the principles of isomorphism, organizations are rewarded for their similarity to
other organizations in their sector. Such acknowledgement makes it easier for organizations
to be in a transaction with other organizations, to attract skilled stuff and to be recognized as
reputable and legitimate. The third and the last type of institutional control is cognitive
control, leading to mimetic isomorphism (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983). Mimetic pressure
occurs when an organization faces circumstances containing environmental uncertainty,
ambiguity and complexity (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983). In addition, compliance with
cognitive institutions occurs because other types of behaviours are inconceivable and
cognitive beliefs are perceived as the natural and taken for granted ways of doing things
(Scott, 2001). As a result, organizations intend to model themselves after similar
organizations in their sector which they think to be more successful as well as more
This study focuses on public organizations, more specifically on local authorities (i.e.
municipalities or city councils). Local authorities are responsible for implementing local
transport strategies in their territories (urban and suburban areas). Existing literature focuses
on the active role of public organizations in the institutionalization process of other
organisations rather than evaluating them as the objects of institutional pressure (Frumkin &
Galaskiewicz, 2004). Collaboration, relationship building and interaction among public and
private institutions have begun to be addressed in the urban freight transport literature but so
far, very few studies have analysed the institutional aspect of UFT (cf. Rose et al., 2016).
This chapter applies the concept of institutional isomorphism to explore coercive, normative
and mimetic influences in UFT.
Coercive pressure in UFT comes from formal institutions such as national governments or
other regulatory institutions (i.e. European Commission). These institutions set formal and
informal requirements. Formal requirements such as national targets (e.g. compulsory air
quality management) exert external pressure on local authorities. Informal requirements aim
to encourage local authorities to implement policies and provide funding available (e.g.
funding calls by regional or national authorities). Sometimes, coercive pressures can also be
internal to a local authority, such as lack of resources.
Factors that create normative pressure in terms of UFT are more about moral requirements
and “doing the right thing.” One major stream of pressure comes from the public, through
voting and lobby groups. While much of this influence relates to passenger rather than freight
transport, often passenger policies will still affect UFT (e.g. pedestrianisation, cycle lanes).
Local businesses and freight forwarders will also lobby local authorities to improve the
transport for them, for instance, reducing congestion and increasing the number of loading
bays, but at the same time, they will be lobbying local authorities to be less interventionist. In
addition, safety and environmental concerns influence transport decisions and the
requirements concerning safety and environment put pressure on local authorities to limit
traffic flows and/or incentivise greener engines.
Mimetic UFT pressures influence the creation process of policy heavily, as strong pressures
exist for local authorities to copy policy from elsewhere, often without sufficient proof that it
is suitable. Some of these influences result from the desire to copy already legitimised
policies that can head off potential criticism, especially when supported by good PR channels
and the use of accreditation procedures. Economic development is another strong pressure,
whereby all cities face pressure to be choosing UFT policies based on economic gain,
providing jobs and making the city attractive for business.
4. Three country case studies
The topic of this study is exploratory in nature, therefore a methodology of qualitative case
studies was selected. The main motivation behind the case selection was to analyse different
countries with different institutional dynamics. The choice of the first two cases was made
after a detailed review of transport plans and strategies at local, regional and national levels in
England and Scotland.
It was identified that they have various differences regarding how
they regulate urban freight transport in their own territories. It is also know from the existing
literature that Sweden is one of the most proactive countries dealing with UFT. From the
perspective of transport maturity introduced by Kiba-Janiak (2017), each of the three
countries can be located on different positions on a scale concerning how mature they are in
terms of implementing freight-focused policies in their cities.
The data for the cases studies was obtained via documentary analysis across the three
countries and interviews at eleven cities
. In Scotland and England, where local authorities
have less responsibility for UFT compared to Sweden, some regional transport organisations
are active in this role (e.g. freight partnerships, regional transport partnerships). Therefore, on
the recommendation of the local authorities contacted, these regional organisations were also
In total, semi-structured interviews were completed face-to-face or on the
phone with 15 different public authorities (see Table 1). The documentary analysis included
transport policy at national, regional and local levels in order to understand the policy context
and influences, and the interviews asked local and regional authority officers about how they
constructed transport policies, what challenges they faced, how they dealt with conflicting
stakeholder demands and what policies they eventually implemented in their cities. The
interviews too place between December 2016 and February 2017, and all interviews were
recorded and transcribed. The influences on UFT policy selection and implementation were
identified from analysing both sources of data and then classified under each of the three
types of institutional pressure.
England and Scotland are treated as two different countries instead of being mentioned as the United Kingdom
because due to the devolved political situation in the UK, transport responsibilities are devolved to the Scottish
level. There are also differences in local and regional governance, which reflect on transport planning and
transport implementation. For instance, in some areas England has combined authorities, which consist of the
combination of neighbouring cities. In Scotland, the city councils produce Local Transport Strategies (LTS)
while English councils produce Local Transport Plans (LTP).
For Scotland and Sweden, the four biggest cities (in terms of population) were chosen, however one of the
cities from Sweden chose not to participate in the study. In the case of England, London was excluded from the
list because of its unique nature and large size and the next four biggest cities were selected. All case cities are
major hubs with regards both to population and also economic wealth. The final list of cities was: Sweden
(Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö), England (Greater Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, Newcastle) and
Scotland (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen).
Each of these regional organisations has only one major city within its boundaries, which are the cities we
analysed in our research, and who advised us to include them. Therefore, while they are technically regional
bodies aiming to improve transport coordination across a region, from the UFT perspective they are dealing with
the cities listed in the table.
Table 1: The list of interviewed authorities and positions of the interviewees
Aberdeen City Council
Senior Engineer for Transport
North East of Scotland Transport
Transport Strategy Manager
Edinburgh City Council
Senior Project Manager
South East of Scotland Transport
Head of Programmes
Glasgow City Council
Technical Officer for Transport
Strathclyde Partnership for
Senior Transport Planner
Dundee City Council
Head of Road and Transport
Bristol City Council
Strategic Projects Team Manager
and Transport Planner
Birmingham City Council
Newcastle City Council
North East Freight Partnership
Senior Specialist Transport
Transport for Greater Manchester
Chief Executive Officer
Malmö City Municipality
Stockholm City Municipality
Gothenburg City Municipality
This section presents the key features of each of the case countries investigated in this study.
The cross-case analysis then explores the similarities and differences between and across the
three countries in order to determine the institutional influences on these policy
environments. Key features of each case are presented in table 2.
Table 2. Key features of each case country
Cities analysed in this research
Maturity in terms of UFT
Decreased quality of
Night time delivery
Scotland is the second largest country in the UK with a population of 5.4 million (NRS,
2018). In general, in Scotland, UFT has been given very little attention. Efforts to make UFT
specific policies remain very local and only a couple of initiatives have been established that
are concerned with increasing the efficiency of freight deliveries in the city centres. One of
the reasons is that Scotland has less urban population in comparison to England.
According to the policy documents, congestion and air pollution are the most significant
problems concerning general traffic and UFT in Scotland. According to the latest National
Transport Strategy published in 2016, Transport Scotland aims to tackle congestion in order
to improve journey times and to reduce the level of emissions to improve air quality. Some
Scottish cities suffer from through traffic, which contributes to congestion problems in cities;
however, the national government works on projects to build city bypasses around these cities
(Aberdeen City Council, 2016; Transport Scotland, 2018a). Some concerns noted are the
rising trend in e-commerce and increasing number of size restrictions on freight vehicles
which increase the number of goods vehicles as well as their distance travelled in cities (RAC
Foundation, 2014; Department for Transport, 2016). The distance travelled by light goods
vehicles (up to 3,5 tonnes) on all Scottish roads increased from 5,460m km to 6,979m km
between 2005 and 2015 while the distance travelled by heavy goods vehicles (up to 40
tonnes) on all Scottish roads decreased from 2,637m km to 2,504m km (Transport Scotland,
2016). The increasing number of light goods vehicles in cities also causes noise pollution and
increases the chance of interference between freight vehicles and road users, which may lead
to road casualties.
Scotland has a very limited amount of policies specifically dedicated to UFT issues.
Restrictions related to parking, loading, time window and size are the most common policies
applied. Size restrictions are only applied due to constructional constraints such as narrow
and historic streets or weak bridges. Freight Quality Partnerships and Regional Transport
Partnerships have a mediating role in implementing UFT policies together with the city
councils. Traffic signalling and freight route maps for truck drivers are two particular
policies, which are implemented as a collaboration between the city councils and the regional
transport partnerships. By 2018, Scotland will introduce low emission zones (LEZ) gradually.
LEZs are going to be implemented based on a national framework but each city council will
implement their own set-ups (Transport Scotland, 2018b).
England is the largest country in the UK with a population of 55.3 million (ONS, 2018).
According to policy documents, local authorities in England aim to create environments for
enabling the efficient supply of goods and services as efficient logistics activities will support
businesses to receive goods that they need to produce wealth and value. An efficient system
is also important to attract more businesses to locate in England. Retailing (including
supermarkets, fashion, bars, restaurants and hotels) and service businesses (i.e. banking,
insurance, other finance related companies) comprise the majority of the economic activity in
England but there are still some production facilities that require constant flow of goods in
and out such as automotive. Some of the cities in England consider UFT as one of the main
sectors that contributes to the economy on local and regional levels and creates job
opportunities. Therefore, these cities promote the establishment of logistics clusters to attract
companies in the logistics sector.
Air pollution and congestion are the most significant problems, according to the documentary
analysis from England. Congestion partly occurs due to the increasing number of light goods
vehicles. This situation occurs as a consequence of size restrictions in place. E-commerce is
another factor that contributes to the increasing number of vehicles and distances travelled in
cities by light goods vehicles (Department for Transport, 2016). Similar to Scotland, there is
a significant increase in distance travelled by light goods vehicles. According to Department
for Transport (2017), vehicle miles increased from 22.2bn to 41.7bn in England between
1993 and 2016. An increasing trend can also be observed in the distance travelled by heavy
goods vehicles. Between 1993 and 2016, vehicle miles increased from 13bn to 14.4bn in
England. Congestion becomes critical especially when freight deliveries and passenger
transport are concentrated at particular hours of the day. In some cases, cities in England need
to accommodate through traffic, which occurs due to a lack of ring roads. There are also
problems concerning road safety and noise pollution; however, they are considered less
The city councils in England implement various policies in order to tackle traffic related
problems. Parking restrictions, loading/unloading restrictions and time restrictions are in
place in order to prevent particular geographical areas from congestion during particular
hours of the day. The city councils declared Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) to
monitor air pollutants such as particulate matter. As air pollution becomes a life-threatening
problem in the cities in England, other bigger cities are getting prepared to introduce clean air
zones, where polluting vehicles that are not compliant with Euro engine standards will not be
permitted. The current policies in place such as restrictions do not provide permanent
solutions for congestion problems caused by freight vehicles as long as the number of
vehicles that travel to cities remains the same or increases. In addition, most of the existing
policies do not directly aim to mitigate problems caused by UFT but focus on general traffic
Overall, England presents a reasonably progressive agenda concerning UFT policies. The city
councils are planning and developing UFT policies and initiatives that will enable freight
operators to make deliveries that are more efficient (Transport for Greater Manchester, 2018;
West of England Partnership, 2011). The councils and the government also promote the use
of low emission vehicles. Some cities in England implement consolidation centres that aim to
decrease the number of heavy goods vehicles to enter congested areas by offering
consolidation operations, some even with electric vehicles (Paddeu, 2017). The city councils
work on developing delivery service plans and guidance on how to design dedicated loading
only zones. Delivery service plans aim to promote use of bicycles and electric vehicles for
freight transport in urban areas and establishing sub-regional freight facilities and economic
centres in order to cluster trade and logistics related activities in centralized places, which
will enable companies to consolidate goods.
Sweden has a population of 10.1 million (SCB, 2017). UFT is considered one of the most
important contributors to the local economies in Swedish cities. Sweden has a longer history
of dealing with UFT related problems than either England or Scotland. Therefore, some of
the problems that are common in other countries do not pose threats in the case of Sweden.
For instance, emission levels do not pose a significant problem on the local roads in Sweden
in comparison to air quality problems on regional and national roads that are passing through
the city. The main reason is that Sweden has a longer history to promote the use of zero and
low emission vehicles that operate within the city. The most significant problem concerning
UFT is that current size restrictions and time restrictions on heavy goods vehicles leads to the
increase in the number of light goods vehicles and results in congestion in the city centres. It
is identified that the distance travelled by light goods vehicles increased from 3,606m km to
9,089m km between 1990 and 2017 (Trafik Analys, 2017). The same data shows an increase
in the distance travelled by heavy goods vehicles from 3, 656m km to 4,912m km between
1990 and 2017 (Trafik Analys, 2017).
Sweden has a larger portfolio of UFT focused policies than the other two countries. They
implement time window restrictions and size restrictions in connection with the time window
restrictions, with various additional current and planned UFT policies. The policies that they
implement are based on factors such as establishing stakeholder engagement groups,
initiating safe and efficient logistics, promoting energy efficient vehicles and data collection
for implementing policies that are more efficient. For instance, the city of Stockholm
implements off-peak deliveries. They initiated the project to mitigate congestion problems
that occur during the day, which leads to inefficient deliveries. As they also want to promote
safe and efficient logistics, they allow hybrid delivery and waste collection vehicles to make
deliveries during off-peak hours to decrease the chance of interference between vehicles and
other road users (cf. Koutoulas et al., 2017). In order to tackle congestion, Stockholm and
Gothenburg implement congestion charging. Swedish cities also implement urban
consolidation centres (UCC) to serve various geographical areas and for various services. For
instance, there are particular schemes which are specifically developed for city centre
deliveries and construction deliveries. In this way, they can promote use of low emission
vehicles as well as fewer numbers of vehicles driving into the populated city centres.
5. Cross-case analysis and institutional discussion
This section compares the three country cases according to the three dimensions of
institutional isomorphism: coercive, normative and mimetic. The key influences are
summarised in table 3.
Table 3. Summary of institutional influences on each case
National government target
Lack of resources
National government policy
Industry lobby groups
Dedicated UFT personnel
Certification and accreditation
Becoming attractive cities
* National government monitoring in Scotland and England is only related to air quality in
cities, not specifically from the UFT perspective.
5.1 Coercive influences
In this study, five types of coercive pressure were identified: target monitoring, technology
standards, institutional change, lack of resources and project participation.
Formal institutions such as national governments are primary sources of coercive pressure in
UFT, acting as an external force on local authorities. Governments and local authorities work
towards increasing accessibility and mobility to create attractive and liveable cities,
identifying their objectives and targets around these aims. However, problems such as air
pollution have become a significant barrier to achieving environmental objectives. In recent
years, governments moved forward from just acknowledging road freight transport as a
challenge to societal and environmental well-being to actively searching for mitigation
strategies. Encouragement for UFT policies from the national level can be considered a
coercive pressure but often they do not impose any statutory requirements, therefore it
becomes more of a normative pressure (and is discussed in the next section). However, close
monitoring of targets from the national level does appear in the UK as a coercive pressure,
but only in one specific instance relating to air quality. UK government mandates the
implementation of AQMAs in cities where air pollution levels are higher than accepted
levels. Cities in England and Scotland with AQMAs are the only examples within the sample,
which experience close monitoring of targets as a coercive pressure. Concerning other KPIs
identified in Sweden, England and Scotland, there is no pressure from upper level
organizations to monitor the local authorities’ targets.
Technology standards is another type of coercive pressure. Almost all case cities aim to
incentivise the use of low or zero emission vehicles in freight as well as passenger
transportation in their policy documents. However, they do not dictate to the private sector to
switch to low emission vehicles completely but they implement measures such as
LEZ/environmental zones to constrain use of vehicles that produce high emissions. It is
observed that cities in Sweden use technological tools to develop other solutions such as
advance-booking system for loading/unloading bays and producing trip generation models in
order to estimate the number of vehicles coming into the city in future. Such differentiation
may occur due to the fact that Swedish cities implemented the use of low emission vehicles
earlier than other case cities in England and Scotland. Therefore, they started earlier to
investigate the existence of other technological standards in order to advance UFT in their
Another formal coercive pressure is stability and alterations in institutions. It has a great
influence on isomorphism in local authorities. The city councils in England evinced a high
level of institutional change. In recent years, the cities in England started to form combined
authorities according to the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016. Combined
authorities are defined as “a legal body set up using national legislation that enables a group
of two or more councils to collaborate and take collective decisions across council
boundaries” (Local Governments Association, 2016; p.4). Greater Manchester (GM) was one
of the earliest combined authorities in England. Transport for Greater Manchester mentioned
that alteration in their governance structure provided by combined authority status enabled
them to follow up their targets and KPIs, which individual local authorities cannot manage to
do due to shortages in financial and human resources. In addition, other cities such as
Newcastle (North East Combined Authority), Birmingham (West Midlands Combined
Authority) and Bristol (West of England Combined Authority) have become parts of other
combined authorities. These authorities became more powerful concerning policy-making
and wealthier in terms of acquiring required resources for implementing policies.
Local authorities can also experience coercive pressure due to budget limitations. These
factors are highly influential on local authorities’ decisions concerning to what extent they
will involve freight transport in their local planning and which policies they will implement
to mitigate related problems. All local authorities in England and Scotland and two out of
three in Sweden mentioned lack of resources as one of the primary reasons for lacking
dedicated UFT departments, lacking freight-focused policies and lacking KPIs. In order to
tackle budget issues, as noted above, local authorities in England started to establish
combined authorities, which are entitled to combine power and access more financial
resources. In addition, EU projects and national calls enable local authorities to obtain
required resources to develop freight solutions.
An increasing participation by cities in EU projects provided an opportunity for local
authorities to obtain more financial resources for UFT policy measures. All eleven sample
cities in this study are involved in at least one EU project. Project participation is considered
here as a coercive pressure, where they believe that they need to be involved in such projects,
first in order to obtain additional funds, and second, to be able to keep up with current trends
in freight, urban mobility and sustainability. It was observed in the interviews that local
authorities consider such projects as a venue not only for implementing a new policy measure
but also as a venue for exchanging knowledge.
5.2 Normative influences
Normative pressure comes primarily but not exclusively from external sources. This study
identified three normative pressures: national government, public opinion and industry lobby
Encouragement for UFT policies from the national level can be considered a coercive
pressure (as discussed above) but often they do not impose any statutory requirements,
therefore it becomes more of a normative pressure. For example, the UK national government
recently published the Freight Carbon Review 2017. This study presents potential measures
that can be implemented in order to mitigate adverse impacts of freight transport such as
synchronised collaboration, use of UCCs and rescheduling deliveries to off-peak hours. Other
national and international level reports such as the Scottish National Transport Strategy
(2016), Cleaner Air for Scotland (2015) or the European Union’s White paper on Roadmap to
a Single European Transport Area (2011) reflect on local transport planning and how freight
is elaborated in transport planning. The national governments’ targets as well as EU
objectives affect all case countries, even when they are not mandatory. Air quality became a
top priority for all case countries because air pollution has hazardous impacts on health and
the environment and road freight transport is one of the significant contributors to air
pollution. Aside from AQMA for air quality mentioned above as a coercive pressure in the
UK, the rest exist only as normative pressures, because local authorities are not forced to
apply them. In Sweden, normative pressure arises either from national level objectives similar
to England and Scotland or from other public authorities on the national level. For instance,
Sveriges kommuner och Landsting (SKL) is an association that represents local authorities in
Sweden. Among various areas of interest, urban freight is one of the topics that the
association works on. SKL published a handbook for freight distribution in Swedish Cities,
which is a manual that the municipalities in Sweden can use to support the process of creating
sustainable UFT systems (SKL, 2018). The handbook does not have statutory power but may
create normative pressure on local authorities to take actions towards establishing public-
private cooperation and planning policies to tackle challenges of UFT operations.
Local authorities also experience normative pressure through informal groups and
organizations such as public and lobby groups. Local authorities react to this pressure by
doing the “right” things for society as well as the environment. Societal wellbeing and
businesses are the two main pressure factors. Societal well-being is concerned with quality of
life in cities. Improved environment, safety, security, and quality of the transport system are
the determinants of quality aspects in cities, crucial to city residents. From the perspective of
transport, public opinion demands clean air, safe and secure places where intrusion of
vehicles is avoided. Public opinion is a big determinant because the public elects mayors and
other local politicians and creates pressure through lobbying groups and awareness
campaigns. The three most important issues which political campaigns emphasize heavily
concerning transport, are mobility, accessibility and safety in the cities. It is important for the
public to see that politicians are working on issues that are directly related to individuals; for
instance, decreasing the number of road casualties, providing accessible public transport and
enabling people to use other transport modes such as cycling.
All three countries are influenced by normative pressure from public opinion, yet differences
were identified concerning how they react. Scotland and combined authorities in England
prioritize more public transport and mobility of individuals compared to the attention given to
freight policies in transport planning. Sweden provides a more balanced approach towards
transport planning and the local authorities acknowledge the fact that the public needs to be
informed about the importance of freight in the city. The local authorities in Sweden stated
that it is crucial to develop methods and implement policies which enable all transport modes
and people to exist together without compromising mobility, safety and accessibility.
Normative pressure from the freight industry and local businesses forms the other side of the
coin. The pressure factors can arise from different angles. First, they ask for less intervention
from local authorities, but they also desire investment for a high-quality transport system,
based on quality infrastructure, availability of parking space and proper signalling systems.
Collaboration and partnership are two primary topics when it comes to building relationships
between public authorities and the private sector. From the interviews, it was found that
partnership and information sharing are more important in Sweden than in England and
Scotland. All case countries mention the importance of collaboration with freight operators
and businesses during the interviews and in their local transport plans. However, local
authorities in Sweden actually work on more projects that require public-private partnerships.
Through such processes, public authorities and other stakeholders must come to an agreement
about financial and operational issues. If they cannot agree on these matters, this will not lead
them to collaborate on developing projects. UCC projects provide a good example for goal
agreement and collaboration between public and private stakeholders. For instance, in
Scotland, there is no working UCC model. Despite multiple attempts, businesses and freight
operators are not interested in getting involved in a project. In comparison, numerous projects
were identified in Sweden and England. Combined authorities in England have taken some
steps forward in order to understand how supply chains work in the city context, particularly
in Greater Manchester. In addition, transport bodies in combined authorities are involved in
training sessions together with truck drivers concerning cyclists’ safety. Sweden has the most
collaborative projects and studies among the three case countries. They are actively involved
with private industry through consolidation centres, off-peak deliveries and freight networks.
5.3 Mimetic influences
The last category of institutional pressures consists of mimetic pressures. Mimetic influences
lead authorities to mimic the organisational structure or policies of others, which presents a
shared logic and hence greater legitimacy for their actions as a buffer against potential
criticism. The three main mimetic pressures identified in this research were dedicated UFT
personnel or department, certification and accreditation schemes and the motivation to
become attractive cities.
In terms of organisational structure, since there is no dedicated department or personnel for
freight transport in English and Scottish councils, different departments come together
occasionally to work on urban freight projects. When different departments come together to
work on the same project, it becomes easier to develop communication channels. However,
when there is no dedicated personnel or department dealing with UFT, awareness and
knowledge concerning freight and logistics in cities do not build up in an efficient way.
Relevant departments come together and work on a project as one of the many other projects
on which they are working at any given time. This does not enable local authorities to deepen
their knowledge concerning urban freight. This is how English and Scottish local authorities
act when they build relationships and transfer ideas and policies. Sweden has a different
picture. Sample cities have at least one or two people dealing specifically with UFT on the
Local authorities want to gain legitimacy by transferring and adapting policies from other
places. One way to gain legitimacy can be through certification and accreditation. This is one
of the most common ways to gain legitimacy in Scotland and England. Local authorities
often participate in fleet recognition and safety schemes (e.g. ECO Stars, CLOCS, FORS) in
order to collaborate with the private sector and prove that they take necessary actions to think
and act according to environmental concerns such as decreasing emissions and preventing
road casualties. In Sweden, there is no similar certification or accreditation programme. The
case cities in Sweden control emission levels through environmental zones. In addition, some
of the local authorities adjust their public procurement activities by introducing transport
provisions in their contractual requirements with their suppliers. They take these actions for
promoting energy efficient and sustainable transport.
As much as private companies compete in the market, there exists also competition between
local authorities as well. Institutional isomorphism in the context of local authorities can also
be explained by competition, as they want to earn titles such as the most liveable cities, the
most environmental cities or the most sustainable cities. Policies, regulations and initiatives
that are implemented by local authorities aim to make cities more attractive for everybody
who works, lives or visits the city. A high quality transport system is also a crucial part of
economic activity and increasing economic activities attracts more business. Local authorities
have a responsibility to ensure that adequate infrastructure for transport, delivery, parking,
loading and unloading is provided. Therefore, an increasing need of mobility for all traffic
users and making required improvements causes mimetic pressure on local authorities. At the
same time, transport policies need to be aligned with other policies such as land-use and city
planning. Space is a scarce resource in city centres, which is shared by many users with
conflicting interests. It is a challenging task to find an optimal solution, which would meet
everybody’s objectives and there is no single solution which fits in all cases. Therefore,
policy makers and planners from different sectors need to be aware of each other’s tasks and
The first conclusion from this research was to identify the principal types of coercive,
normative and mimetic pressures operating in UFT policy, as listed in Table 3. Almost all of
these were operating in all three case countries, although with some differences in
government structure and interaction between the national, regional and local levels. All local
authorities in all three countries face the same pressure to keep city centres functioning
smoothly, increase economic activity and undertake necessary improvements to transport
infrastructure. The latest trends indicate that decreasing the number of private cars and freight
vehicles on city roads and prioritizing public transport are the obligatory components of
attractive and sustainable cities.
The second conclusion is to explore how, even in the presence of similar influences, the three
countries are revealed to be on a different point on the scale of maturity in terms of UFT
policy (Kiba-Janiak, 2017). Thus, isomorphism is identified in cities of the same country,
with a clear difference between each of the three countries. There appears to be some
influence at work on the national level, as several differences were identified between
Sweden and the other two countries. Local authorities in Sweden react more strongly to
public opinion for greener transport, but on the other hand, they also make the public more
aware of the importance of UFT. A crucial difference is that they have dedicated personnel
for UFT, unlike the other two countries. This department or people need to cooperate with
other departments to develop projects and policies. However, dedicated departments and
personnel also have the responsibility to deepen UFT knowledge and share this information
to inform other departments about how UFT is relevant to their tasks and why it is necessary
to consider freight when implementing policies for other transport modes. Having said that, a
change to larger authorities in England has been positive for UFT as they have larger
resources and power to act, which leaves Scotland as the country of the three with the
weakest institutional structure in terms of UFT policy.
In terms of the policies implemented (Table 2), all local authorities in the study were willing
to implement some restrictions (such as weight-based restrictions); however, these may be
considered “soft” restrictions in comparison to the other types that require businesses to pay
fees or upgrade their vehicle fleets. Yet, certain differences also emerged, with Sweden the
most likely of the three countries to implement stronger restrictions, while Scotland was the
least likely, hesitating to upset the freight sector by proposing restrictions such as congestion
charging or the requirement to deliver during off-peak times. The hesitation of Scottish
authorities may also arise from their previous experiences. In 2005, Edinburgh wanted to
introduce congestion charging; however, it was rejected by a public referendum. According
to Rye et al. (2008), negative coverage by newspapers, disagreement on objectives and the
complexity of the scheme leading to public misunderstanding were the main reasons for the
“no” vote. This confirms the view that each of the three countries are on a different point on
the scale of maturity in terms of UFT policy.
Since local authorities (and the regional and national layers that lie behind them) remain
reluctant to enforce restrictions on users in order to meet UFT goals, it suggests a higher
influence of normative and mimetic factors compared to coercive. Considering the fact that
local transport plans are very much driven by national transport strategies, the same goals
arise in local transport plans as well, yet effective policies to achieve these goals are lacking
in many cases, partly due to a lack of coercive influence. UFT continues to have lower
priority compared to other policy areas, and local authorities in England and particularly
Scotland demonstrate a limited vision when incorporating freight issues in their transport
planning. One way forward could be for local authorities in future to move beyond
consideration of restrictive measures that they do not want to implement, and instead focus
on participatory and collaborative measures based on the agreement of different stakeholders,
which requires a deeper understanding of the institutional influences as elaborated in this
chapter. Evidence in Sweden suggests that a better relationship between the public and
private stakeholders makes it easier to implement restrictive measures in partnership rather
than through top-down imposition.
As noted above, while collaboration, relationship building and interaction among public and
private institutions have begun to be addressed in the UFT literature, so far, very few studies
have analysed the institutional aspect of UFT (cf. Rose et al., 2016). Some existing literature
focuses on the active role of public organizations in the institutionalization process of other
organisations rather than evaluating them as the objects of institutional pressure (Frumkin &
Galaskiewicz, 2004). This study therefore contributes to knowledge of UFT by explaining
how institutional factors influence public authorities in the process of choosing and
implementing policies to regulate UFT. It is particularly important that public authorities are
aware of constraining factors (e.g. lack of resources, public opinion) and their capabilities
(e.g. dedicated personnel, certification and accreditation). Another contribution from the
study is to demonstrate that differences in institutional environment lead to different levels of
success in UFT policy implementation. This was reflected in the differences across the three
countries; for example the normative difference in Sweden, where UFT is viewed more
positively and there is greater collaboration between stakeholders, and the coercive influence
of a changing institutional structure for managing UFT in England through combined
authorities with greater resources. Thus UFT policy analysis is not simply about the actual
policies chosen but to what degree their institutional environment will influence the outcome
of the same policy in a different city or country. This provides the motivation for future
research in this field.
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