The International Road Transport Union (IRU) has called for the stakeholders to join hands in amidst a rapidly evolving landscape marked by burgeoning geopolitical unrest, digitalization challenges and widespread concerns on climate change.
“IRU’s job is to help drive economic growth by finding better, more sustainable ways to get everyone and everything to its right place,” said Umberto de Pretto, the secretary-general of IRU. “As the global voice of road transport, IRU is leading the charge and forging greater collaboration between industry stakeholders to implement the necessary legislation and infrastructure, and ensure the sector’s future success.”
IRU has released a manifesto that calls on international organizations, governments and industry stakeholders to “safeguard the role of road transport in driving economic prosperity.” It has also released a call for action in Europe for a five-year time window between 2019 and 2024, advocating for intervention in three core facets: prosperity, people and environment.
Today, road transport accounts for 5.7% of global employment and in Europe alone yields five million jobs and adds €500 billion to the European GDP. Reducing the inherent inefficiencies within the industry and generating greater cooperation by eradicating conventional siloed practices would help drive sizeable industry growth in these dire times.
“Our manifesto is important in both laying out the scope of the challenges facing the industry, as well as demonstrating that we are serious about tackling them,” said de Pretto. “Europe’s prosperity relies on a thriving road transport sector – our call for action document contains a series of concrete steps IRU believes EU stakeholders should be taking to ensure the industry goes from strength to strength in the future.”
IRU believes that digitalization is the way forward for improving the health of the road transport industry, pointing out that data analytics and re-envisioning mobility as a service can significantly decrease operational costs and boost efficiency. To expedite this process of change and to strengthen the industry against geopolitical uncertainties, IRU is urging governments to revise transport policies to foster intermodal cooperation and define a “harmonized framework for better data access and governance.”
“IRU research from 2018 showed that geopolitical uncertainty was the biggest perceived threat felt by transport companies worldwide. Globally, 57% cited it as their top concern. Transport companies are worried about the threat of political instability, the growing specter of trade wars or increasing trade tariffs,” said de Pretto. “Uncertainty is exacerbated by the fact that we cannot predict how these situations will play out. For example, at the moment, nobody knows precisely how Brexit will end, and therefore what the consequences will be.”
Attracting and retaining driver pools within Europe has been a problem, especially with the younger generation. IRU estimates that one in five driver positions remain vacant, while the number of women and millennial participants in the industry remains consistently low.
Building a greener future for road transport is vital as well, which would mean stakeholders opting for low-emission and zero-emission vehicle alternatives that run on electric or hydrogen fuel cell technology. With greater adoption and improved economies of scale, such alternative powertrain solutions can be made more affordable and enhance overall performance to that of conventional vehicles.
“When it comes to meeting the challenges ahead, transport companies feel that technology and innovation will be key to unlocking further growth, as well as contributing to a sustainable environment,” said de Pretto. “However, this future will require significant investment over a long period of time – both in terms of helping companies get technologically ready, but also making sure they have the right infrastructure and are properly supported by regulations.”