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Freight transport logistics in Europe
The aim of this communication from the Commission is to improve the efficacy of the European transport system through logistics. It also promotes multimodality as the way to make freight transport more environmentally friendly, safer and more energy efficient. The communication will be followed by an action plan in 2007.
Communication from the Commission on freight transport logistics in Europe, the key to sustainable mobility [COM(2006) 336 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
Globalisation and EU enlargement to the east have created new challenges for European transport. The fast growth of freight transport contributes to the economy but also causes congestion, noise, pollution and accidents. At the same time, transport has become increasingly dependent upon fossil fuels. The communication from the Commission states that, without adequate measures, the situation will continue to worsen and increasingly undermine Europe's competitiveness and the environment that we all live in.
The Commission therefore recommends modernising logistics to boost the efficacy of individual modes of transport and their combinations. In particular it recommends a better distribution of traffic towards more environmentally friendly, safer and more energy efficient modes of transport. The Commission plans to present an action plan on this subject in 2007.
State of the European logistics market
The global logistics industry is estimated at roughly EUR 5.4 trillion, or 13.8 % of the global GDP. On average, logistics costs account for 10-15 % of the final cost of the finished product. Although logistics is becoming increasingly important, there is a lack of reliable statistical information on the situation. Nonetheless, EU companies do increasingly recognise that there are competitive alternatives to road freight.
Linking logistics and transport policy more closely
The communication from the Commission reiterates the need to balance security (see [COM(2006) 79]) and the free flow of transport. It is in favour of dovetailing logistics into transport policy so that logistics becomes an underlying factor in decision-making.
The Commission proposes action in the following areas:
- identifying bottlenecks. The Commission wants to identify bottlenecks in order to address these obstacles to the free flow of transport and logistics;
- extracting value from information and communications technology networks. The Commission proposes linking systems such as GALILEO to logistics to track and trace cargo. Companies should also have easy, low-cost access to this technology. Logistics should thus remain a priority under the 7th Framework Programme for Research;
- establishing European certification. Education and training in transport varies greatly in Europe. The Commission is therefore in favour of setting up a certification scheme for logistics specialists. Work in this field has already been undertaken under the Leonardo Da Vinci programme on vocational training;
- developing statistical indicators. The Commission is keen to create a reliable picture of the logistics performance of the European transport market. To this end, it plans to work on devising suitable methodologies and indicators;
- better use of infrastructure. Some situations create bottlenecks and undermine the free flow of traffic. However, building new infrastructure is not the only solution to the problem. The Commission considers that transhipment facilities, including seaports and airports, should employ modern technological solutions such as advance informatics. Rules should provide the appropriate framework for progressing this aspect;
- recognising quality. The transport industry already uses a number of performance indicators or benchmarks to assess and control its service quality (air transport in particular). A quality label could be created and extended to logistics chains using other modes of transport;
- simplifying multimodal chains. Flows could be simplified and assisted by a one-stop administrative interface where all customs formalities are carried out in a coordinated way;
- promoting a regulatory structure or worldwide multimodality. Responsibility in international transport arises from conventions. Often they provide different rules for different modes of transport, which is an obstacle to using combined modes. The Commission therefore promotes the creation of a worldwide regulatory structure. The fragmented nature of liability regimes could also be relieved by the use of a comprehensive transport document;
- establishing European loading standards. The rules on the dimensions of vehicles and loading units should match the needs of advanced logistics and sustainable mobility. The Commission has proposed common European standards for intermodal loading units. At present there are a multitude of different configurations, which increases the costs of intra-EU transport.
In 1997 the Commission published a communication on intermodality, which underscored the importance of intermodality for making European freight transport more efficient and environmentally friendly. The text put forward a number of strategies to promote "sustainable mobility", including the modernisation of logistics systems. It also announced that the PACT programme would be replaced by Marco Polo. In 2001, the mid-term review of the White Paper [COM(2006) 314 - Not published in the Official Journal] highlighted the importance of logistics. This communication places logistics at the heart of "sustainable mobility".