Transport & Logistics mode

Time For a New Road in the European Haulage Industry

March 01 2019

Imagination is the best shipping company in the world”: what if we took Roger Fournier’s words literally? Road Transportation is a major industry in the European economy: it moves 90% of all goods exchanged, provides jobs to over 3 million people, and generates about €300 billion in revenue. And yet, it is facing considerable challenges!

Driver shortage has become blatantly apparent these past few years. More drivers retire than new ones enter the market, and the workforce coming from eastern Europe is becoming scarcer. In day to day life terms, this means that 43% of French companies are experiencing difficulties recruiting drivers.

Haulage is commonly seen as a polluting, or even dangerous mode of shipping. One that saturates roads and cities. This image is sticking to the industry, regardless of the constant reduction in CO2 (and other pollutants) emissions, as well as the reduction in the number of accidents involving trucks.

In this context, it has become hard for merchandise trucking to imagine a bright future for itself. With a dwindling workforce due to the low attractiveness of the industry, companies run the risk of jeopardizing their commercial relationships with clients, due to increased logistical issues that could arise from a smaller staff.

Even though this period seems like the end of an era, it also provides the opportunity to tap into a new stream of innovation, carried by new digital technologies. Current tech innovation serves to redefine the means, practices, and eventually, the needs of the industry.

To achieve this redefinition, three main paths should be considered:

1) Making driving trucks attractive again
2) Working on the sustainability and overall energy efficiency of the industry, and communicating about it
3) Digitalizing transport to make it revolve around key players (operators, drivers, buyers)

Drivers are now considered for what they are truly worth, because they are at the heart of the industry. In specific crafts like glass shipping, the trucks’ cabins have been made larger to increase driver comfort. These are signs pointing to a real change in the way a trucker’s work in considered.

Regarding sustainability, the European Union continues to work towards lowering greenhouse gas emissions (-15% between 2019 and 2025, -30% between 2019 and 2030 for HGVs>7.5T). This considerable effort coming from all the players in the value chain from truck manufacturers, to carriers, and shippers, shows how seriously the trucking industry is committed to reducing its carbon footprint.

Finally, the digital revolution, which is shaking up our entire world, is sure to bring a wave of new opportunities to the shipping industry. New mobility solutions, data transparency, real-time decision-making support, artificial intelligence backed planning, supply and demand interaction, or extended operational support (assisted driving, assisted loading/unloading), to only name a few, will no doubt contribute to a significant increase in shipping value add, and to a smoother integration with client supply chains.

The foundations are set. Now it’s our turn to shake up the key elements of our industry to make sure it stands the test of time!

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More than 20 years of experience in the international supply chain, William is the Upply road transportation expert. Entrepreneur by nature, he has successively worked in operational and functional management among various industries, such as chemistry, automotive and building materials; alternately shipper and service provider.