A big lorry racing down a long and dusty highway

Technology advances in logistics transport ‘hampered by costs and confusion’

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Uncertainty over the world’s political environment, lack of understanding of and investment in new technology and a basic dearth of drivers are among the biggest obstacles facing the road transport and logistics industry today. These were the findings of a report from the IRU, the world road transport association, that also recorded a likelihood of autonomous trucks being a reality within a decade.

IRU surveyed 450 transport companies from Europe, Asia and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and revealed the results at the IRU World Congress in Muscat Oman on 6-8 November 2018. The Congress also saw the signing of a broad roadmap for the transport industry.

Umberto de Pretto, IRU’s Secretary General, commented: “The global transport system touches the lives of each of the planet’s seven billion people, from the food we eat to the consumer goods we buy. So it’s perhaps not surprising that many of the issues facing society today are also considered by transport companies to be their biggest challenges. These include some of the main themes that dominate the international agenda, including geopolitics, trade and the environment.”

Greater use of technology in transport is seen by many as one of the great opportunities and in particular the adoption of autonomous trucks is predicted by 76 per cent of transport companies to become a viable option on the roads within the next decade. However, implementation of new technologies is hampered by the cost (according to 71 per cent) and also a limited understanding of the range of emerging technologies available (50 per cent).

It is no surprise then that innovation was at the heart of the ‘Muscat Compact’, which along with the IRU Future of Road Transport survey was the second major announcement of the IRU World Congress.

The Compact was debated at Ministerial level and endorsed at the end of the Congress, and aims to provide a roadmap for the future of road transport, mobility, trade and logistics, while focusing on the four key elements: talent, trade, environment and innovation. 

Involved in these discussions were 25 regional and national delegations with the intention of setting out industry responses to such global objectives, notably those set out in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The need for communication and collaboration was launched by an opening keynote at the Congress when former President of the European Commission, José Durao Barroso, commented: “It is essential to talk, regardless of differing interests and animosities, because talking is what leads to deals, which in turn means trade and global prosperity.”

Subsequent talks examined how governments can work better with transport operators in supporting trade facilitation, building human capital, decarbonising, digitalising and facilitating intermodal efficiency. The Muscat Compact that resulted from this is a principle-based framework for cooperation, aimed at bringing the industry together to take control of its future by using innovation to overcome current challenges and uncertainty.

At the end of the process, as the Muscat Compact was endorsed, Secretary General of IRU, Umberto de Pretto, commented: “This is a defining moment for the industry. We can’t predict the future, but we can forge our own destiny within it. The survival of the industry – of global prosperity – depends on it.”

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