The Road to More Sustainable European Transport

The future of road freight transport in Europe is closely linked to sustainability. That is why European authorities are taking action to create efficient infrastructures that facilitate the internal market and geographical, economic and social cohesion. These factors work as a basis for accelerating the initiative to move towards a transport system, deemed by the European Union to be "more eco-friendly, digitized, resilient, fair and competitive."

A Trans-European Transport Network for more Sustainable Mobility

This has been an ongoing goal for some time now. In 1996, the first step was taken when a decision was made to introduce the TEN-T (Trans-European Transport Network). This refers to a collection of priority transport networks designed to facilitate the passage of people and goods in the European Union.

When completed in 2030, the end goal of TEN-T is to help ensure compliance with the European Green Deal guidelines and the European Union's Sustainable Mobility Strategy. Therefore, in its most recent review, TEN-T focused its objectives on meeting the proposals on climate change and accelerating the digitization of transport.

In this regard, the Council of the European Union recently updated the conclusions on its mobility strategy to help speed up the shift towards a more sustainable transport system. The aim is to achieve a carbon-neutral European Union by 2050, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% in all member countries by 2030.

The Green Deal Against Climate Change

The abovementioned guidelines are based on the European Green Deal, the block's tool for combating climate change, which aims to achieve a clean zero-emission economy. The ambitious fundamental aim is to make the European Union the leader in climate action across the globe.

This roadmap includes 50 points that revolve around promoting the efficient use of resources, covering all sectors of the economy, while primarily focusing on those that produce the most emissions, i.e., the energy industry and transport sectors.

In this regard, the European Green Deal promotes the use of a cleaner and more efficient transport to reduce emissions. It therefore aims to ramp up efforts to reduce the use of fossil fuels when it comes to transport and to be less dependent on them.

With regard to heavy vehicles, in 2018, the European Commission began working on a CO2 emissions regulation, which would involve reducing emissions by 15% by 2025, compared to 2019 levels, and by at least 30% by 2030.

The road to achieve this would involve phasing out support for fossil fuels by encouraging people to invest in the development of alternative energy. Apart from electricity, hydrogen and some fossil gases (compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas), these also include biofuels, such as bioethanol, biodiesel and biomethane.

Europe Has an Obsolete Fleet of Trucks

Where are we at today? We are working with a very old fleet of trucks. Currently, only 2.300 "zero emissions" trucks are in circulation, just 0.04% of the 6.2 million light and heavy commercial vehicles circulating in the European Union.

Therefore, as the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association points out, the current number of electric trucks must be increased 100-fold to meet the carbon dioxide emission targets by 2030. This is something considered to be feasible by increasing supply with a radical paradigm shift. It therefore turned to the authorities to establish a suitable legal framework and to introduce more electric charging points and hydrogen stations.

Journeys with no Load, the Achilles Heel of Transport

Another matter that needs to be addressed in the transport sector to improve efficiency is reducing the distance traveled with no load in the cargo bed. It is estimated that 25% of trucks circulating in Europe do so without a load.

Typically, a company in a region has more outbound routes than it does routes back to its home base. For example, a company in Barcelona that has ten fixed daily loads to Lyon probably does not have the same number of loads on the return journey. However, it is very likely that this will also be happening to a company in Lyon with routes to Barcelona. The reality is that these companies' trucks are both taking to the road without a load.

Route optimization is a key factor to saving fuel, reducing emissions and to transport companies operating efficiently. This is where freight exchanges such as Teleroute come into play, connecting supply and demand capabilities through its online platform. Having access to this information means your company's daily activity can be managed more sustainably, with multiple alternatives for procurement, thereby reducing the distance traveled without a load.

In any case, a bright future for the environment is no longer a dream. Instead, it has become a common European objective with well-defined deadlines and actions. In the coming years, we will be checking to see to what degree the authorities and other bodies involved are complying with this plan and whether the bases laid down today will result in fully sustainable road freight transport tomorrow.