Road freight transport is the most widespread mode of transport worldwide, not only locally but also internationally. Indeed, every good that is shipped from one place to the other on the planet has certainly travelled, at least in part, by road.
At European level, according to data published in the European Commission's EU Transport Figures in 2020, EU statistical pocketbook, 3.353 billion tkm (tonnes per sq.kilometre) were moved in 2018 (latest available data) using different types of transport. When breaking down the figures by mode of transport, we can see that road freight transport is still the preferred mode compared to all the others, accounting for 51% of all transport, when including sea and air, and 72%, when excluding sea and air. Six countries dominate road freight transport (measured in tkm) in the EU: Poland, Germany, Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Italy, which together account for 69.9% of all tkm transported by road.
Despite the road transport industry is under constant pressure to maximise efficiency and reduce waste, it remains the most popular method.
FTL – LTL Services and Costs
The HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicles) service is divided mainly into FTL and LTL.
Let’s take a look at the characteristics of both services:
FTL – Full Truck Load
Full Truck Load (or FTL, i.e. full transport) road transport service is when a company's load occupies the space of an entire semi-trailer. The load is normally packed onto pallets (but also in boxes, cages, crates etc.) which are then loaded onto the trailer. No other consignments are loaded onto the vehicle.
Some advantages of FTL shipping are:
LTL – Less Than Truck Load
Less Than Truck Load (or groupage) is when a company's load is handled together with other customers' shipments. LTL shipping allows each customer to minimise their transport costs by paying only for the quantity they are actually shipping.
In this case, goods travelling in the same vehicle are taken to a consolidation hub where they will then depart for the destination hub. At the destination hub, they are sorted and then delivered to their final destination.
The main advantages of the LTL service are:
How is the cost of the service calculated?
There are essentially three items that make up the price for FTL and LTL transport:
1. Basic fare for the requested route (line haul)
2. Fuel surcharge
3. Tariff surcharges (delivery by appointment, delivery with tail lift, etc.)
Generally speaking, the following information is needed to provide a quote:
The Advantages of the Road Transport service
The fact that this means of transport is often the preferred choice of many is due to the considerable advantages that this service offers.
Let's look at them in more detail:
1. Cost: costs of road transport are considerably lower than the investment required for a sea or air shipment. The same applies to maintaining the infrastructure.
2. Door-to-door: The main advantage of the road transport service lies in the possibility of door-to-door delivery of goods for each shipment. The last mile, i.e. delivery to the final destination, is entrusted to road transport even when shipment is by air, sea or rail.
3. Coverage of remote areas: road transport is often the best solution when it comes to shipping goods to or from areas that cannot be reached by other means.
4. Flexibility: the ability to change routes and times quickly and easily according to needs and without incurring any issues, is one of the major benefits of choosing this service.
5. Transversality, not only for short distances: today we are able to offer ground transportation import services even from remote areas such as China and Russia. Road transport remains the cheapest and quickest way to transport goods over short distances but is now also a viable alternative for medium and long distances.
6. Reduced risk of damage in transit: goods are handled less, excluding loading and unloading; therefore, the risk of them being damaged in transit is lower than with other modes of transport. This is why road transport is suitable for delicate and fragile goods.
7. Quick booking: the time required to book road transport is generally shorter than for sea, air or rail services.
Planning your service ahead of peak times will help prevent disruption and allow you to consider all your options.
Despite this complementary means of transport being linked to peaks in demand for the other modes of shipping, there are some key moments to take into account when it comes to road transport.
The two-year period 2020 - 2021: effects of the Covid-19 crisis and implementation of Brexit
The situation unleashed by the global pandemic has had a very strong impact on the logistics supply chain, which has been severely strained during 2020. In addition to the need to supply essential and urgent goods, there was also the need to manage the increase in capillary distribution caused by the growth in the use of e-commerce, which has become a service widely used not only by large retailers but also by small businesses. The fundamental role played by road transport has become apparent. The sector has been confronted with an unforeseen increase in demand, which has become even more difficult to meet due to containment measures and a reduced workforce.
In addition, from 1 January 2021, the new procedures imposed by the implementation of Brexit, such as the reintroduction of customs checks and formalities, have increased the difficulties affecting transport to and from the UK, especially in terms of longer transit times. The main effects have been an increase in freight rates and a contraction in the number of companies willing to provide the service to and from the UK, thus causing a significant increase in the price of Italian goods being exported.
Shortage of drivers
Although the crisis has highlighted the important role played by road transport, it has also highlighted a number of critical aspects linked to this sector. One of the most important of these, which can no longer be underestimated, is the shortage of drivers in Europe. According to the latest estimates published by Transportintelligence, there is a shortage of around 400,000 truck drivers on the continent. The IRU (International Road Transport Union) report of March 2021 showed that around 20% of the positions needed in Eurasia are not filled. Important countries in this sector such as Poland and Romania are facing obvious difficulties with estimates of a shortage of drivers of around 40-50%. According to the 2020 report of the Contract Logistics Observatory of the Politecnico di Milano, 49% of contracting companies have had difficulty finding drivers in recent years. This phenomenon has its causes in the difficult working conditions to which drivers are subjected, which, exacerbated by the pandemic, increasingly alienate the younger workforce and women in particular.
For these reasons, the European Parliament has approved the Mobility Package with the aim of improving working conditions for drivers, making the road transport system more competitive and sustainable, and paving the way for digitisation processes.
Challenges for the sector: sustainability and security
Sustainability is undoubtedly one of the primary challenges of the transport industry. With the rise of digital commerce and the necessary reorganisation of last-mile transport, the environmental footprint of road transport has become even more urgent. The choice of partners with the lowest emissions is perceived as urgent by customers in order to satisfy a need that is increasingly felt by the end consumers of goods and services.
As far as road transport is concerned, low-emission fuels and full electrics are undoubtedly the protagonists. Although some providers have started to integrate, expand and replace their fleet with green vehicles, the process is still very costly. At the same time, one of the key prerequisites for carbon-free road freight transport is rapid investment in a dense network of dedicated charging infrastructure for trucks, which is currently lacking.
Together with environmental concerns, another major challenge is safety both on the road and on the ground. The road transport fleet of vehicles in Italy is particularly old, and a large number of vehicles do not have the latest safety devices, despite being mandatory since 2015: these include Advanced Emergency Braking System (AEBS) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) devices. In addition to safety on the road, there is also the question of safety on the ground, i.e. at intermodal terminals and certain logistics centres. On 16 December 2019, EU Regulation 2019/2144 was published, which defines the new legislative provisions for type approval of road vehicles with regard to safety issues (new GSR), inserting a series of new safety devices that will have to be part of the mandatory equipment of vehicles according to an implementation schedule already defined.
AdBlue lack & increase in the fuel price
AdBlue is a diesel exhaust fluid used to reduce harmful gases being released into the atmosphere, necessary for state-of-the-art vehicles (Euro5 and Euro6) to which numerous heavy ground transport providers have switched in the last years. During 2021, AdBlue price has increased by 236% as a consequence of the natural gas price surge which has caused a decrease in the quantity of AdBlue produced. This implies difficulties in the use of new vehicles recently bought by road transport providers.
At the same time, fuel price has increased by 21.1% since January 2021.
D.B. Group – our Team and Services
Overland transport is the transport solution that provides the highest level of flexibility, versatility and process simplicity.
Our road transport service offers a very wide range of possibilities and allows us to respond nimbly to customer demands.
All our services are dedicated to B2B, and only in a few cases do we handle B2B2C pick-ups and deliveries on behalf of corporate customers. We organise and manage direct transports and triangulations for our customers, choosing the means of transport best suited to their needs on a case-by-case basis.
Our road transport service is designed to meet customers' needs with door-to-door solutions, both Full Load and Groupage, and with dedicated express vehicles, with the possibility of direct pick-up and delivery and management in our hubs in Italy and Europe.
Finally, all our suppliers are selected and contracted only after checking their fiscal and corporate documentation and they must have an adequate and constantly renewed fleet of vehicles based on current regulations (we only use road vehicles classified as Euro 5, Euro 6, methane and electric).
For further information, please contact your sales representative or request a consultation HERE.