European Road Frieght Transport 2014
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With an industry that is directly linked to national economic growth, ongoing recovery problems in parts of the Eurozone have prolonged an atmosphere of negativity in the European road freight market.
Profitability in the sector is low with average profit margins in the UK at 2.6%, Spain 1.2% , 1.9% in Italy and 1.4% in Belgium. Worryingly, these numbers are likely to be even lower when companies which have now gone out of business are taken in to account.
Although Ti estimates that the European road freight market will grow by just 1.0% and 1.5% for 2013 and 2014 respectively, the medium-term prospects to 2017 are more optimistic.
There are a number of emerging trends which are likely to have an impact on the fortunes of the European Road Freight sector, including not only from technological improvements but also political, legislative and environmental developments.
One such development is the rate at which autonomous trucks are becoming a reality. Although it will be many years before drivers are eliminated completely there are a number of attainable technological advances which will increase operational efficiency in the short term. Improved safety levels, reduced trip times and less congestion as a consequence are just a few of the benefits to be gained through the development of this technology
In terms of political change, the European market is fast becoming more liberalised. Cabotage, the right of operators from third party countries to undertake domestic movements of goods, will continue to extend throughout the Eurozone, improving the efficiency of the industry by removing empty running. However, the additional competition in an already small margin business model will see increased opposition from local hauliers.
Potential inhibitors of growth also exist in the form of increasingly stringent environmental legislation. The European Commission has expanded its scope regarding legislation related to engine emissions (Euro 5 and 6). Until recently, regulations have largely focused on Nitrogen Oxides and particulates and have been implemented from a Public Health perspective but in the future Carbon Dioxide emissions will become the likely target.