The Roads? Role in the Freight Transport System

Rikard Engström    


The transport system is often described as the lifeblood system of modern society. Roads constitute a fundamental part of this system for both passenger and freight transports. Freight transport is expected to increase throughout Europe by 80% until 2050 (EU, 2011). ITF (2015) stated that international freight transport to ports will increase fourfold until 2050. This will, ceteris paribus, result in a severe increase of congestion and incidents. In turn, incidents will worsen congestion even more. This paper, which draws on current work in CEDR and PIARC, describes the role of the road in the freight transport system. The background to this paper comes from reports that state the road network alone cannot cope with the expected increase in transport flows. Important road freight areas and issues about how to reach a more sustainable freight system are identified and discussed in this paper. These discussions include multimodal terminals and operations, autonomous vehicles, ITS, infrastructure usage, economies of scale, and behaviour/educational issues. The function of the road, from a freight perspective, is manifold. It is used for small shipments over short distances as well as their counterparts. Road freight is most often necessary in the beginning and in the end of the multimodal transport chain (first/last mile logistics). Furthermore, road freight is the only mode involved in many door-to-door freight chains, as it is usually the only mode involved. Such a chain might constitute one or several truck movements. Peak car is widely discussed but peak truck/peak freight might be something that needs to be considered for many reasons. The European climate and transport policies push for a modal shift from road to other modes of transportation. To meet this challenge the market-based transport system must develop into a truly multi-modal system. A smarter utilisation of the transport system is important from the perspective of economic, environmental, and social sustainability. However, more importantly there is a need to make road freight more sustainable in itself. Therefore one important role for the road is to try to stimulate and promote the possibilities for modal shift while another is to optimize its characteristics.

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