Geopolitical uncertainty biggest threat to European road transport businesses, a

Geopolitical uncertainty biggest threat to European road transport businesses, according to IRU

Geopolitical uncertainty is the biggest threat to the European road transport sector, according to a new survey from the International Road Transport Union (IRU).  
Withh Brexit negotiations still ongoing, more than half (57%) of European companies see geopolitical uncertainty as the biggest threat facing their businesses, followed by over-regulation (48%), with the implications of the EU Mobility still being felt across the industry, as well as the possibility of a new global recession (54%).
The IRU report, launched in advance of the IRU's World Congress in Muscat, Oman, said technology-driven innovation will define the future of road transport in Europe with 71% of the European transport companies surveyed expecting autonomous trucks to become a viable option on the roads within the next decade.
Nearly one in three (31%) of European transport companies believe that improving safety will be the biggest innovation opportunity while 20% cite automation.
Worldwide, transport companies believe the primary benefit of automation will be boosting productivity (50%), followed by helping to cut costs (19%).
Barriers to adopting technology persist – with European transport companies citing the major challenges to adopting technology driven innovation as cost and investment (71%), followed by a lack of highly-qualified people (66%). 
Pockets of the industry have yet to embrace new technologies and processes, the report continued, and that there is still work to do to create solid digital foundations and harmonise formats before technology-driven innovation can be optimised properly. Similarly, while many European transport companies believe autonomous trucks are just around the corner and many manufacturers are carrying out pilots already, the reality is that there is still a long way to go before they become a safe, secure and sustainable option on our roads.   
IRU said despite the technology itself becoming ever more sophisticated, there is a risk that it will be held back by a multitude of issues relating to the lack of necessary investment in infrastructure, upskilling of drivers, legal constraints and cybersecurity concerns. These issues will need to be addressed to enable automation to reach its full potential, the report noted. 
Boris Blanche, IRU’s Managing Director, commented: “There is no question that autonomous trucks will eventually be transformative for the industry – helping boost productivity, create efficiencies and enhance driver working conditions. But drivers will not become obsolete any time in the future, and in fact the industry must continue to encourage more drivers into the profession. Proper and responsible adoption over time is required, and we must see full cooperation from all industry stakeholders.”
Umberto de Pretto, IRU’s Secretary General, added: “For technology to take hold, and for the industry to truly benefit from it, we must ensure we have the foundations in place. This means first getting the basics right, such as full transitioning to digital documentation, improving traceability, security and efficiency. We must work harder to join the dots between operators, service providers, manufacturers and governments to nurture a supportive environment for innovation and digitisation.” 
“We must also push for legislation and policies that encourage all operators to invest in the technology needed to make these innovations the norm.” 
The IRU global survey interviewed 450 transport companies across Europe, Asia and Arab States of the Gulf. The respondents included 175 companies from eight European countries – France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, the UK, Poland and Romania.