Wth the help of modern IT systems, industry hopes to keep trucks moving as congestion worsens on Europe’s roads

A major study by the Economist Intelligence Unit foresees a huge increase in global traffic congestion.

But industry leaders believe that intelligent logistics and the use of modern IT will help keep traffic moving.

The report, “Keeping traffic flowing; Transport efficiency to 2030,” paints a worrisome picture of the global traffic situation in the next two decades. It cites, among other things, poor government effectiveness and lack of political interest in dealing with transport infrastructure issues. And it warns that increased traffic congestion will take its toll on economic growth and the environment.

Road freight volumes in the European Union are expected to grow by 78 percent between 2000 and 2030. At the same time, costs to society are rising. In the UK, traffic-related costs total 8 billion to 9 billion euros a year.

Only 27 percent of 220 senior industry executives interviewed for the study, believed the infrastructure in their countries is “very well prepared” for the growth in demand. Most of them are from developed countries.

“While governments claim that ambitious infrastructure investment schemes wil ameliorate congestion problems to 2030, the fact remains that congestion is growing, particularly in urban areas,” the report says.

The Economist study put Germany first in its ranking of transportation infrastructure quality. France is second, Spain is third and the UK is in fourth place.

Industry executives believe that intelligent logistics systems and modern IT systems will help trucks avoid traffic jams. New driver assistance systems should reduce accidents, which will also boost transportation efficiency.

“Fully equipping Germany’s truck fleet with adaptive cruise control could bring the number of collisions down by 28 percent,” the report says. It also said that lane-departure warning systems could reduce by 49 percent the number of accidents resulting from truck drivers inadvertently switching lanes.

Companies are relying in particular on vehicle-to-hub or vehicle-to-vehicle data transfers or informatics-based traffic management systems to avoid transport logjams.

In the survey, 63 percent of respondents said that such automated systems are among the most important ways of squeezing more outof existing transport infrastructure.  And most foresee wider use of intelligent IT systems in their own logistics operations.

“You cannot operate at the level of complexity of these organizations, without some level of decision support coming from a technology solution,” says John van Wyk, CEO of UK-based Barloworld Logistics Europe. Van Wyk was one of 18 transportation experts interviewed in depth for the Economist report.

Nearly half of the executives polled mention new IT systems allowing smarter vehicle navigation as among the most useful logistics network improvements.

The Economist report draws several conclusions from its research:

  • Transportation costs need to be better tracked so companies can make informed decisions about locating operations and configuring supply chains for the future
  • Logistics operations should be improved and modernized with new technology and more and better use of third-party service providers
  • Green practicesshould be adopted quickly. Fleets need to become more fuel-efficient, intelligent logistics systems should help avoid traffic jams and new technologies should be adopted to ease freight transfers between roads and other transport modes
The report, which was sponsored by German truckmaker Man, included a benchmarking study on current and future transportation efficiency in 10 countries: Germany, France, the UK, Spain, Poland, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

A PDF copy of the full report can be downloaded here.

By Arjen Bongard