This work studies the organization of less-than-truckload trucking from a contractual point of view. We show that the huge number of owner-operators working in the industry hides a much less fragmented reality. Most of those owner-operators are “quasi-integrated” in higher organizational structures. This hybrid form is generally more efficient than vertical integration because, in the Spanish institutional environment, it lessens serious moral hazard problems, related mainly to the use of the vehicles, and makes it possible to reach economies of scale and density. Empirical evidence suggests that what leads organizations to vertically integrate is not the presence of such economies but hold-up problems, related to the existence of specific assets. Finally, an international comparison hints that institutional constraints are able to explain differences in the evolution of vertical integration across countries.
Hold-up, hybrids, institutions, moral hazard, vertical integration, trucking industry
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