Logistics Research

, Volume 3, Issue 2–3, pp 101–120 | Cite as

A multi-agent and auction-based framework and approach for carrier collaboration

Original Paper


Carrier collaboration in transportation means multiple carriers form an alliance to optimize their transportation operations through sharing transportation requests and vehicle capacities. In this paper, we propose a multi-agent and auction-based framework and approach for carrier collaboration in less than truckload transportation. In this framework, the carriers outsource/acquire requests through multiple auctions, one for outsourcing each request; a carrier acts as an auctioneer when it wants to outsource a request to other carriers, whereas the carrier acts as a bidder when it wants to acquire a request from other carriers; for each carrier, which requests it should outsource and acquire are determined by solving its outsourcing requests selection problem and requests bidding problem, respectively. These two decision problems are formulated as mixed integer programming problems. The auction of each request is multiround; in each round, the auctioneer determines the outsourcing price of the request and each bidder determines whether it acquires the request at the given price; the auctioneer lowers the outsourcing price if multiple carriers bid for the request or raises the price if no carrier bids for it. The auction process continues until only one carrier bids for the request or a given number of rounds are achieved. In the second case, if no agent bids for the request, then it is returned to the outsourcing agent; if multiple bidding agents compete for the request, a conflict resolution procedure is used to determine which carrier wins it. The approach is decentralized, asynchronous, and dynamic, where multiple auctions may occur simultaneously and interact with each other. The performance of the approach is evaluated by randomly generated instances and compared with an individual planning approach and a centralized planning approach.


Collaborative transportation planning Carrier collaboration Multi-agent systems Auction Outsourcing Pricing 


  1. 1.
    Agarwal R, Ergun O (2008) Mechanism design for a multicommodity flow game in service network alliances. Oper Res Lett 36(5):520–524MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Agnetis A, Pacciarelli P, Pacifici A (2007) Combinatorial models for multi-agent scheduling problems. Chapter 2 of book multiprocessor of scheduling: theory and applications. Itech Education and Publishing, AustriaGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Berger S, Bierwirth C (2010) Solutions to the request reassignment problem in collaborative carrier networks. Transp Res Part E 46(5):627–638CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Biswas S, Narahari Y (2009) Approximately efficient iterative mechanisms for combinatorial exchanges. In: IEEE conference on commerce and enterprise computing, Vienna, Austria, pp 182–187Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bürckert HJ, Fischer K, Vierke G (1998) TeleTruck: a holonic fleet management system. In: Proceedings of the 14th European meeting on cybernetics and systems research, vol 2, Vienna, Austria, pp 695–700Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Dai B, Chen HX (2009) Mathematical model and solution approach for collaborative logistics in less than truckload (LTL) transportation. In: 39th international conference on computers & industrial engineering, Troyes, FranceGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Dai B, Chen HX (2009) A benders decomposition approach for collaborative logistics planning with LTL transportation. The third international conference on operations and supply chain management, Wuhan, ChinaGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Davidsson P, Henesy L, Ramstedt L, Törnquist J, Wernstedt F (2005) An analysis of agent-based approaches to transport logistics. Transp Res Part C 13:255–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Ergun Ö, Kuyzu G, Savelsbergh M (2007) Shipper collaboration. Comput Oper Res 34(6):1551–1560CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Ergun Ö, Kuyzu G, Savelsbergh M (2007) Reducing truckload transportation costs through collaboration. Transp Sci 41(2):206–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Houghtalen L, Ergun Ö, Sokol J (2007) Designing allocation mechanisms for carrier alliances. Available at the website: http://www.agifors.org/award/submissions2007/Houghtalen_paper.pdf
  12. 12.
    Holguín-Veras J, Xu N, Jong G, Maurer H (2009) An experimental economics investigation of shipper-carrier interactions in the choice of mode and shipment size in freight transport. Netw Spatial Econ. doi: 10.1007/s11067-009-9107-x
  13. 13.
    Krajewska MA, Kopfer H (2006) Collaborating freight forwarding enterprises: request allocation and profit sharing. OR Spectrum 28(2):301–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Krajewska M, Kopfer H, Laporte G, Ropke S, Zaccour G (2008) Horizontal cooperation of freight carriers: request allocation and profit sharing. J Oper Res Soc 59:1483–1491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Kwon RH, Lee CG, Ma Z (2005) An integrated combinatorial auction mechanism for truckload transportation procurement, Working paper, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, the University of Toronto, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Lang NA, Moonen JM, Srour FJ, Zuidwijk RA (2008) Multi agent systems in logistics: a literature and state-of-the-art review. Available at the website: http://www.hdl.handle.net/1765/12902
  17. 17.
    Lavi R, Nisan N (2005) Online ascending auctions for gradually expiring items. In: Proceedings of the sixteenth annual ACM-SIAM symposium on Discrete algorithms, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, pp 1146–1155Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Lee CG, Kwon RH, Ma Z (2007) A carrier’s optimal bid generation problem in combinatorial auctions for transportation procurement. Transp Res Part E 43(2):173–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    McAfee RP, John M (1987) Auctions and bidding. J Econ Lit 25(2):699–738Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Mes M, Van der heijden M (2007) Pricing and scheduling strategies for carriers and shippers in sequential transportation auctions. In: Proceedings of the sixth triennial symposium on transportation analysis, Phuket Island, ThailandGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Mes M (2008) Sequential auctions for full truckload allocation. PhD thesis, University of Twente, Enschede, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Sandholm T (1993) An implementation of the contract net protocol based on marginal cost calculations. In: Proceedings of the 11th national conference on artificial intelligence, Washington, USA, pp 256–262Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Schwind M, Gujo O, Vykoukal J (2009) A combinatorial intra-enterprise exchange for logistics services. Inf Syst e-Bus Manage 7(4):447–471Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Shoham Y, Brown KL (2009) Multiagent systems algorithmic, game-theoretic, and logical foundations. Cambridge University Press, UKGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Solistics solutions Inc. Irvine, California, USA. Freight Terms, available at the website: http://www.solistics.com/Documents/Freight%20Terms.pdf
  26. 26.
    Villahoz JJL, Martinez RO, Arauzo AA, Ordax JMG (2010) Price updating in combinatorial auctions for coordination of manufacturing multiagent systems. In: 8th International conference on practical applications of agents and multiagent systems. Springer, New York, pp 201–207Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Vries S, Vohra RV (2003) Combinatorial auctions: a survey. INFORMS J Comput 15(3):284–309MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Walsh WE, Wellman MP (2003) Decentralized supply chain formation: a market protocol and competitive equilibrium analysis. J Artif Intell Res 19:513–567Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Wellman MP (1992) A general-equilibrium approach to distributed transportation planning. In: Proceedings of the 10th national conference on artificial intelligence, San Jose, USA, pp 282–289Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Wellman MP, Walsh WE, Wurman PR, MacKie-Mason JK (2001) Auction protocols for decentralized scheduling. Games Econ Behav 35:271–303MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Wooldridge M (2009) An introduction to multi agent systems—second edition. Wiley, USAGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire d’optimisation des Systèmes Industriels (LOSI), Institut Charles Delaunay (ICD) and UMR CNRS STMR 6279Université de Technologie de TroyesTroyesFrance

Personalised recommendations