Gamification in freight transportation

As exemplified by the Suez Canal obstruction of 2021 by the Ever Given container ship, disruptions in global logistics can have far-reaching effects on our everyday lives, which depend on fluent and efficient transportation of goods. While the cost-efficiency of freight transportation is usually in the spotlight, addressing safety, resilience and sustainability challenges is also imperative in this domain. More than focusing on automated and data-driven solutions, technology must also address the human-performed operations to favour transportation stakeholders, by, for example, introducing game-like experiences to motivate safe and energy-efficient driving (Klemke et al., 2014). Gamified freight transportation processes (e.g., planning, preparation, carriage) could be valuable to many users and tasks, but literature is still dispersed and hinders future research endeavours and practical efforts.


Thus, to understand if and how gamification can influence freight transportation, Klock et al. (2021) conducted a systematic review of this topic and outlined design recommendations and future research avenues based on 40 related studies. Overall, most studies described simulation games that mimic the real-world environment and circumstances to improve psychological and behavioural shortcomings while focusing on the operational level of road and water transportation modes, such as truck driving and managing disruptions at maritime ports. Check out the summary of freight transportation aspects, gamified interventions and outcomes investigated by these studies in the interactive chart below:


As we can see, literature reflects the multifaceted nature of freight transportation by exploring gamification effects in its various human-performed aspects. Still, it provides limited evidence on the extent to which gamification design choices can contribute to the described favourable outcomes. Thus, as some design recommendations to future gameful approaches in this area, for instance, the authors encouraged:

  • Tackling broader challenges of freight transportation by simultaneously targeting different audiences and more complex issues in multiple domains or modalities: Given the mainly positive outcomes of gamification in tackling target-specific (e.g., drivers, order pickers) and domain-specific (e.g., energy and space efficiency) issues, it is time to address broader challenges by considering how transportation processes interact with each other and use suitable motivational affordances to promote further collaboration between stakeholders, for instance. 
  • Understanding the nature of the environment (e.g., users, tasks, contexts) to choose a suitable gameful approach: Serious and Simulation Games are an appropriate option for improving learning by allowing employees to simulate and discern the outcomes of their actions without risks while applying motivational affordances to a real-world task is ideal if aiming to improve it.
  • Balancing the motivational affordances to create a useful, highly cost-effective, pleasant and meaningful experience to direct users toward the desired goals: Nowadays, literature mostly features achievement affordances (e.g., challenges, points, feedback, difficulty, levels, badges, leaderboards, timers), which relates to improving performance goals. Since the challenges of transportation extend beyond cost-efficiency, applying social and immersive affordances will also reflect our needs towards societal and environmental changes.


In the same way, some potential avenues for further research would be exploring the interplay between gamification and data-driven solutions by designing more user-friendly and effective gamification interventions that make use of the emerging possibilities of intelligent freight transportation and investigating how gamification can advance societal and environmental aspects of freight transportation, since the corpus provided little insight on how to enhance these issues by, for instance, exploring gamification benefits concerning social (e.g., social media, shared economy), environmental and safety aspects.


Gamification in freight transportation: extant corpus and future agenda

Ana Carolina Tomé Klock

Eetu Wallius

Juho Hamari

Reference: Klock, A. C. T., Wallius, E., & Hamari, J. (2020). Gamification in freight transportation: extant corpus and future agenda. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management. doi: 10.1108/IJPDLM-04-2020-0103

See the paper for full details:




Several freight operations rely on human cognition and behavior. Tackling these aspects, gamification transforms activities to resemble game-like experiences. Since the freight transportation sector is rapidly adopting gamification, the purpose of this study is to provide an overview that synthesizes the state-of-the-art and plot future directions for research and the practice of gamifying this area. A systematic review of the gamification of freight transportation was conducted. After screening 691 studies, 40 relevant studies were analyzed. Most studies found positive psychological and behavioral outcomes from gamification. Literature mainly focused on tackling the operational-level issues of road and maritime transportation modes by implementing simulation games. Besides elaborating how gamification can improve freight transportation, the authors describe directions still uncovered by the current corpus, such as research design and temporality and the variety of modes and tasks. Practical implications emerged from the studies, primarily focusing on understanding users, tasks and contexts, targeting different audiences and transportation modalities, and balancing motivational affordances, while considering the demands of the freight transportation domain, including dynamic, spatially dispersed environments and cooperation between multiple stakeholders. The transportation of goods dominates much of the global economy and ecology. Therefore, gamifying this domain has a huge societal impact potential, especially related to issues of sharing economy, safety, environmental sustainability and social media. Beyond providing an original overview of gamified freight transportation, this study maps current research gaps and describes practical recommendations.

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