Prof. Alan C. McKinnon, PhD

Professor of Logistics

From 1979 to 1987, Alan McKinnon lectured and researched in economic geography and transport at the University of Leicester in the UK. Between 1987 and 2012 he was based at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and appointed full professor there in 1995. During his time at Heriot-Watt he established a research center specializing in logistics and a master’s program in logistics and supply chain management. In 2014, he was appointed an Emeritus Professor of Heriot-Watt University. Prof. McKinnon has an MA degree in geography from the University of Aberdeen, an MSc in transportation studies from the University of British Columbia and a PhD from the University of London (UCL).

Prof. McKinnon has been lecturing, researching and advising on logistics since 1979. His PhD, on physical distribution in the food industry, was one of the first doctoral studies conducted in the UK on logistics. He has conducted over fifty studies for numerous public and private sector organizations, published extensively in the logistics and transport literature and generally supported the development of logistics as an academic discipline. He has edited two journals and is currently on the editorial boards of five others. In 1996 he was one of the six founder members of the Logistics Research Network, which has its own journal, organizes an annual conference and awards prizes and research grants. In 2003 he received the highest distinction of the UK Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, the Sir Robert Lawrence award, for his long track record in logistics research and education. In 2015 the European Logistics Association awarded him a Fellowship ‘in recognition of his contribution to developing the body of Logistics knowledge’. Prof. McKinnon has or has had visiting professorships at universities in Australia, Malaysia, China, Italy, Sweden and South Africa and has lectured in over 40 countries.

Prof. McKinnon has held various high-level positions with international organizations. In 2010 he was appointed chairman of the World Economic Forum’s industry council on logistics and supply chain management. In 2016 he became a member of the WEF’s Council on the Future of Mobility. In 2012 he was one of two academics appointed to the High Level Group on Logistics established by the European Commission to advise the EU Transport Commissioner on logistics issues. Between 2014 and 2016 he was Chairman of the Transport Advisory Group for the EU Horizon 2020 research program. In 2016 he was chairman of the planning committee for a major symposium jointly organized by the European Commission and US Department for Transportation on the adaptation of transport systems to climate change. Prof. McKinnon has also undertaken projects for the World Bank, United Nations and OECD.

Prof. McKinnon has undertaken research on a broad spectrum of logistics topics. His early work introduced logistical concepts into the modelling of freight flow, examined the logistical strategies of retailers and explored the logistical penalties of peripherality. In the 1990s he pioneered new approaches to the measurement and benchmarking the efficiency of road freight operations and investigated the relationship between economic growth and freight transport externalities. Other studies have examined the changing land and energy requirements of logistics, the outsourcing of logistical activities, the impact of traffic congestion on logistics performance, the links between logistics and economic development, the logistics of online retailing and the possible supply chain impacts of new technologies such as 3D printing and drones. A long term interest in the environmental impact of logistics has culminated in recent years in research on the opportunities for decarbonizing logistics and need to adapt logistics systems to climate change.

Prof. McKinnon has written several reports for government agencies and industry bodies on the measurement and reduction of carbon emissions from freight transport. He was a lead author of the transport chapter in the 5th Assessment Report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in 2014.

Much of Prof. McKinnon’s research has informed public policy at both UK and international levels. In 2011, for example, he was appointed by the European Commission to three expert groups examining EU funding of transport research, the development of transport technology and the promotion of sustainable logistics. He has also advised several parliamentary committees and government departments in the UK and international organizations on issues such as freight transport policy, truck size and weight limits, road charging and supply chain resilience.

Alan McKinnon joined KLU in January 2012 as Dean of Programs and Head of Logistics. His terms of office as Dean and department Head ended, respectively, in April 2014 and January 2016. In 2015 he won the KLU Best Teacher award and continues courses on the fundamentals of logistics and sustainable logistics. He has played a lead role in major KLU research projects for Unilever / Kuehne and Nagel and the World Bank and uses his extensive networking with businesses, international organizations and academia to promote the university’s activities worldwide.

For more details about Alan McKinnon, including downloads of research articles and white papers, you can also visit his personal website at


Tel: +49 40 328707-271
Fax: +49 40 328707-209


Selected Publications

Copy reference link   DOI: 10.1016/j.ijpe.2009.08.027

Abstract: This paper reports on research undertaken to determine the baseline trends in logistics and supply chain management and associated environmental effects up to 2020. Factors affecting freight transport demand, truck fuel consumption and related CO2 emissions are classified into six categories in relation to different levels of logistical decision-making. The projections are based on the results of seven focus group discussions and a large-scale Delphi survey. Three scenarios are constructed to assess CO2 emission levels from road freight transport in 2020. The likely changes in the key logistics variables are discussed and the complexity of the problem is highlighted.

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Copy reference link   DOI: 10.1080/01441640600825952

Abstract: Between 1997 and 2004, gross domestic product increased in real terms in the UK by one‐fifth, while the volume of road freight movement remained stable. This suggests that the long‐awaited decoupling of economic and freight transport growth has begun, possibly leading to a new era of sustainable logistics. This paper reviews previous research on the decoupling issue and recent trends in gross domestic product/freight tonne‐km elasticities in Europe and the USA. It then examines 12 possible causes of the observed decoupling in the UK using published statistics from a wide range of British and European sources. This analysis indicates that around two‐thirds of the decoupling is due to three factors whose impact can be quantified: the increased penetration of the British road haulage market by foreign operators, a decline in road transport’s share of the freight market, and real increases in road freight rates. Several other factors, most notably the relative growth of the service sector, the diminishing rate of centralization, and the off‐shoring of manufacturing, appear to be having a significant effect, though this finding cannot be measured on the basis of available statistics. The paper concludes that, while the decoupling is in the right direction from a public policy standpoint, the net environmental benefits are likely to be quite modest.

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Copy reference link   DOI: 10.1016/j.tranpol.2005.09.002

Abstract: The British government was planning to introduce a system of road-user charging for lorries in 2008. In July 2005, it decided to abandon these plans and incorporate the development of a charging scheme for trucks into a future road pricing system for all categories of traffic. This paper examines the objectives of the proposed lorry road-user charging scheme in the UK and argues that the government's plans for LRUC would have been inappropriate. An alternative method of road-user charging for lorries is proposed which would meet the main objectives of LRUC at much lower cost, disruption and risk and act as an interim measure until it is possible, technically and politically, to introduce general road pricing in the UK.

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Copy reference link   DOI: 10.1016/j.trd.2004.09.006

Abstract: This paper assesses the impact of the increase in maximum truck weight in the UK in 2001 on traffic levels, road haulage costs and emissions. It compares the actual effects of this measure with forecasts made a year before the weight limit was raised. This forecast took account of three key factors: the migration of loads to heavier vehicles, a traffic generation effect and the diversion of freight from the rail network. The net reduction in truck-kms by 2003 was at the upper end of the forecast range, though this is likely to under-estimate the long term reduction that will be achieved when the road freight sector has fully adjusted to the new weight limit. The paper includes an historical review of the lorry weight issue in the UK, a comparison with official studies of the issue in the United States and a short discussion of the case for a further increase in maximum truck weight in Britain.

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Copy reference link   DOI: 10.1007/BF00170033

Abstract: The forecasting of road freight traffic has relied heavily on the close correlation between GDP and road tonne-kilometers. It has not been rooted in an understanding of the causes of freight traffic growth. The research reported in this paper has investigated this process of traffic growth in two ways: first, by analysing official data on the production, consumption and movement of food and drink products, and second, by conducting a survey of the changing freight transport requirements of 88 large British-based manufacturers.The analysis of secondary data shows how, in the food and drink sector, the relationship between the real value of output and road vehicle-kms hinges on four key parameters: value density, handling factor, average length of haul and consignment size. An attempt is made to explain variations in these parameters.The survey of manufacturers suggests that the growth of lorry traffic is the net result of a complex interaction between factors operating at four levels of logistical management: strategic planning of logistical systems, choice of suppliers and distributors, scheduling of product flow and the management of transport resources. Changes in the frequency and scheduling of freight deliveries in response to tightening customer service requirements and just-in-time management appear to have become a more prevalent cause of freight traffic growth than the physical restructuring of logistical systems. Manufacturers anticipate that their road freight demand will broadly increase in line with sales and be largely unaffected by road transport cost increases at the levels currently proposed. The paper concludes by examining their likely reactions to a much sharper increase in the cost of road freight movement.

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Academic Positions

Since 2012

Professor of Logistics at Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg


Head of Logistics at Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg


Dean of Programs at Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg

1987 - 2011

Lecturer, Senior Lecturer (1991), Reader (1994) and Professor (1995) of Logistics
Associate Head of School of Management (1998-9)
Director of Research in the School of Management and Languages (2005-6)

1979 - 1987

Lecturer in Geography, University of Leicester



Ph.D. University College London: thesis title ‘Spatial Structure of Physical Distribution in British Food Industry’


MA  Center for Transportation Studies, University of British Columbia, Canada


MA Department of Geography, University of Aberdeen, UK

The Herbert Crow award from the Worshipful Company of Carmen in the City of London. This award ‘recognises an individual who has significantly furthered transport knowledge and development through study, publication, analysis, research, training or systems’. It was presented to Professor McKinnon in 2002.

The Sir Robert Lawrence Award, the highest distinction of the UK Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport for making a ‘major contribution to transport and logistics over a sustained period’. Professor McKinnon received this award in 2003.