Scared or careful?

F. Cruijssen, W. Dullaert

Horizontal cooperation is defined by the European Union (2001) as concerted practices between companies operating at the same level(s) in the market. Through horizontal cooperation, Logistics Service Providers (LSPs) aim at increasing productivity, e.g. by optimizing vehicle capacity utilization, reducing empty mileage and cutting costs of non-core or supporting activities to increase the competitiveness of their logistics networks. In 2004 a large-scale survey was sent out to Flemish LSPs to map their attitude towards many aspects of horizontal cooperation (Cruijssen et al. 2005). It showed that generally LSPs strongly believe in the potential of horizontal cooperation. Interestingly, when asked for examples of horizontal cooperation, a large share of the Flemish respondents came up with Dutch cases. Also in the supporting in-depth interviews, it was more than once admitted that Dutch LSPs are more inclined to start a pilot cooperation with colleague companies, than the Flemish LSPs. Considering the strong similarities in the logistics infrastructure of the Netherlands and Flanders, this is an intriguing observation. In this paper we formulate the claim that horizontal cooperation projects are more common and more likely to succeed in the Netherlands than in Flanders. In order to check this claim, (an extended version of) the same questionnaire was sent to 2500 Dutch LSPs. We statistically check these hypotheses and comment on any significant differences found in the evaluations of the Dutch and Flemish respondents. The results of the surveys show that both Flemish and Dutch transport companies agree with the opportunities of horizontal cooperation equally strong. This illustrates the great potential in the Benelux. However, when it comes to the impediments for horizontal cooperation, Flemish LSPs indeed seem to structurally experience more difficulties with horizontal cooperation than their Dutch colleagues. Five of the nine rated impediments show a difference that is statistically significant. This does not mean that the Dutch think lightly about these barriers. Generally, they also agree with the propositions. However, they tend to ‘see light at the end of the tunnel’. The impediments that Flemish transport companies consider more severe then the Dutch companies do, relate to: (1) partner selection, (2) equal allocation of costs and benefits, and (3) ICT investments. Intriguingly, Flemish LSPs are more often encouraged by their clients to participate in horizontal partnerships than their Dutch colleagues and they are (as a result) also more interested in (intensified) cooperation. Two possible explanations for these observations are offered. First, the situation in the Dutch transport sector might be worse than in the Flemish transport sector, so that the Dutch are more forced to cooperate. The second explanation is the possibly stronger inherent cautiousness of Flemish LSPs to engage in new logistic concepts.

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