Let’s make transport the solution!

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ImageThis seems to be a good time to stop blaming transport for all the World’s snags and start looking for simple ways of maximizing the benefits of this tool. Yes, you read it right: transport is a tool, for itself it does not create but adds value to goods and services moved where they are needed.

Since I joined the Bank, on November 1st, 2010, I listened and read about projects, operations, achievements, particularly on road transport - as this is my area of interest and competence. I heard experts talking about how extensively road infrastructure projects were funded and there are voices saying that most of our clients benefit of satisfactory-to-good road networks thanks to World Bank assistance.

ImageVery often I heard people debating on which transport mode is more damaging to the environment and by how many percents; about the steep ascending curve representing the increase in food prices, largely influenced by the cost of transport and logistics… I was surprised though not to hear discussions about how improving transport services would contribute to mitigating an important part of the current risks linked to climate change and food prices, or to the challenge represented by green growth. Again, I am mainly thinking of road transport services, because road is the most dynamic mode and its professionals are the most mobile when accomplishing their duties. In addition there is no international authority to rule on minimum qualifications, international recognition of certificates, etc. as is the case in civil aviation or maritime transport.

I fully understand those of you who ask themselves for instance “how could better training of drivers influence the price of food or mitigate the adverse effects of climate change?” or “how could regulated access to profession influence environmental protection?”

Well, let’s consider the following (just few) possibilities and their spillovers:

  • If only authorized transport operators were allowed on the market, budget revenues would be properly collected and resources could be earmarked for priority projects such as fleet renewal or cold chains;
  • If standards on transporting perishable foodstuffs were introduced and enforced, a significant percentage of the harvest would be saved for national consumption or for exportation;
  • If transport operators were bound by a proper contract and were liable for damage to the goods, they would perform their contracts in a much more responsible way;
  • If periodic technical inspection of vehicles were mandatory, there would be significantly less pollution and crashes;
  • If overloading of trucks were eradicated by good regulations and enforcement, the additional costs of maintaining the damaged infrastructure would be directed to other priority projects;
  • ImagePutting in place Customs transit systems would eliminate long waiting times at borders therefore will expedite transport of perishable foodstuffs and minimize emissions;
  • If transport operators were trained to manage their fleet, the return trips with empty trucks would decrease and the operators would not have losses to cover to the prejudice of clients, and the environment would receive additional proofs of friendship;
  • Harmonized standards and norms are a first step toward facilitation of international transport and implicitly reduction of barriers to trade therefore lower costs and prices;
  • Having well trained professional drivers including in eco-driving is the most cost-efficient way to reduce fuel consumption, greenhouse gases and crash rates with all latter’s social, economic and financial implications.


Of course I am aware that things are not as simple to achieve as they are to put on paper but it’s worth a try, don’t you think so? 

Key facts and figures
Some facts and figures about road transport, compiled from public information from the European Commission and the International Road Transport Union:

  • More than 90% of goods in value and more than 80% in inland freight volume are carried by road.
  • More than 6,000 billion tonne-kilometres of goods per year are done by road in the EU, USA, CIS, China and Japan alone.
  • 85% of all goods carried by truck are transported over a distance of less than 150 km, and only 1% is above 1000km.
  • Since 1990, noxious emissions from trucks, such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and particulates, have decreased by up to 98%.
  • Since 1970, CO2 emissions from the trucking industry have been reduced by more than 1/3.
  • Trucks of all sizes represent about 10% of the total number of vehicles on roads across Europe; and 20% of all the kilometers driven.
  • 25 modern trucks make less noise than one built in 1980. Trucks have become much quieter over the last 30 years thanks to such technological innovations as special insulation, low-rolling resistance tires and other noise control techniques. Further reductions could be made by using low-rolling resistant surfaces for new roads.
  • In the EU, transport depends on oil and oil products for more than 96% of its energy needs; Europe imports around 84% of its crude oil from abroad. In 2010, the EU’s oil import bill was around € 210 billion.
  • According to the industry commercial road transport is and will remain dependent on oil with no economically viable alternative in sight. A comparison of energy characteristics of various fuels shows that to obtain the same operating efficiency of a truck using diesel fuel, all existing alternative fuels require much heavier and larger tanks than diesel tanks. In other words, by running on alternative fuels, a truck would have to carry additional fuel weight instead of transporting goods.







Virginia Tanase

Senior Transport Specialist

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