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The Covid crisis has hit forwarders specialising in European road transport, particularly those working in the automotive and construction sectors.
Previous issues such as driver shortages and Brexit pale in comparison with the lack of volumes and low pricing in the current market.
Only 32% of forwarders expect revenues to grow this year, against 67% last year, according to the European Road Transportation survey by Transporeon, of more than 1,200 freight forwarders.
Some 38% expect a decline in turnover, against 10% last year, and nearly half of the chemicals, construction and automotive industries (45%, 48% and 47% respectively) are expecting declines this year.
Some 77% are seeing a decline in volumes, and 30% are seeing free capacity in the market due to Covid. Spring 2020 saw a record high in available capacity, with transport prices correspondingly low. As a result, only 28% are planning to increase capacity this year – against 46% last year. One in 10 will cut their capacity.
Covid and its consequences dominate forwarder concerns, with 64% saying it was the issue with the greatest impact on business, with 58% noting that the economy was a primary issue. Last year, driver shortage was seen as a real concern for more than 50% of forwarders, now it is worrying for less than 15%.
Despite severe lockdowns in countries such as Italy and Spain, freight forwarders in the UK, Ireland and Poland see the greatest impact of Covid on their own situation, with over 70% of carriers in each market affected.
However, digitalisation is one positive, with 74% of forwarders saying it will improve their business. Nearly 50% said the best optimisation would be cutting waiting and unloading times, while the second most important measure was time slot management.
The majority of forwarders give customers the current position of the shipment when asked, with 42% giving customers live tracking and 38% give customers the ability to view status messages.
Emissions, however, remain a problem. Nearly 43% are unable to calculate them, while 72% said less than 10% of their customers ask for emissions data.
“In the currently very challenging economic situation, it’s absolutely vital that transport companies, but also our governments, continue to invest in digitalisation and data-driven infrastructures,” said Stephan Sieber, chief executive of Transporeon.
“We see this in the survey results: three-quarters of all carriers believe digitalisation will improve their business situation; and we see it in the increased uptake in spot market opportunities, which only become possible through enhanced digital technology.
“In the years ahead, I’m convinced digital technology will not only make the industry more efficient, but also play a central role in managing its environmental impact. And clearly we have a lot of work to do there.”
You can download the full survey here.