Businesses engaged in logistics, trade, transport and mobility are vulnerable to disruption, innovation and the ever-shifting sands of trade wars and geopolitics.
Specifically, road transport plays a crucial role in economic and social development as a principle means of moving people and goods and as the connector between other modes of transport.
While all the interested players and stakeholders within the massive global supply chain have their own motivations, expertise and agendas, they share certain common values.
Road transport operators, logistics businesses, mobility service providers, governments, international organisations, suppliers, and transport users are all invested in safeguarding safe, secure, efficient and well-managed mobility services to promote trade, economic growth, jobs and prosperity for all. They share a mutual desire for best-in-class transport for the good of the industry and ultimately society.
To that effect, during the celebration of IRU @the_IRU World Congress held in Muscat, Oman, during the first week of November, 2018, a significant number of ministries of transport, finance, trade and economy from all continents came together to endorse a set of principles that define a highly aspirational and transformational agenda for the future of the industry. This is a bold and forward-looking decision that will be soon followed by many other governments, institutions and international and regional multilateral organisations.
The road transport industry, for its part, as a key enabler of mobility, is responsible for ensuring the efficient movement of persons and to connect them with economic activities, including jobs, business opportunities and needed services such as health, education, cultural and other vital and leisure services.
The road transport industry is also at the heart of trade and the movement of goods. As the first and last mile of transport, road transport facilitates the unencumbered transit of goods within cities, between cities and within nations, but also across borders. This massive endeavour requires collaboration across stakeholder groups, notably in the form of partnerships between governments and industry to facilitate trade, centred on clear international standards and procedures and efficient logistics systems.
This can be achieved through the articulation of trade facilitation measures such as harmonised customs procedures, the elimination of cumbersome and restrictive trade practices to render border operations efficient and effective.
At the heart of this large and interconnected web are the people who make the road transport networks operate efficiently and safely.
A motivated and well-trained workforce, and a safe environment for users, workers and everyone else on and around our roads is essential for the success of the Homeric efforts of keeping the business of logistics and mobility functioning seamlessly 24/7.
A skilled and competent workforce that is trained in modern techniques and technologies is indispensable to enable the industry to respond to the disruptions and the challenges affecting today’s transport markets. In that regard, there is an urgent need to address the global driver shortage issue and other related labour issues, and to allow the industry to take advantage of the opportunities presented.
Road safety requires a comprehensive and collaborative approach that covers all causes of accidents, involving commercial and private vehicles, including proper training and certification of road transport professionals.
Road transport must also coexist in harmony with the natural environment that supports life on earth. Providing viable and effective responses and accompanying investments to address the challenges associated with climate change is indispensable to ensuring the sustainable future of road transport and the industry’s ability to continue to deliver wide access to safe, secure and efficient road transport services.
Decarbonising operations to reduce harmful carbon emissions, improving fuel efficiency through new vehicle technologies, and widening uptake of alternative fuels all make logistics operations more efficient and sustainable in the longer run.
All industry players across this global and massive supply chain must work in partnership with regulators and governments to jointly contribute in a sensible, realistic and effective manner to meet the objectives of the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Technology is developing faster than ever before and future opportunities for road transport, mobility, trade and logistics are immense. The transition to these new systems and the opportunities that emerge from their deployment, especially at a regional and global level, however, must be managed proactively and collaboratively with all stakeholders.
Creativity and innovation have enabled the road transport industry to use information communications technology to effectively manage the extensive transformation that is currently underway.
Innovative services for both passenger and goods transport are creating greater access, better security, safety and efficiency.
Measures to digitalise road transport and transit procedures are creating strong efficiency gains for the industry. Investments in automation promise to deliver increasing numbers and kinds of mobility solutions for passenger and goods transport and to eliminate errors and discrepancies, thus increasing safety, security, performance and efficiency.
Real-time access to critical data and information will also contribute to making mobility and transit more secure and provide a more predictable business environment for road transport.
The challenges and opportunities are big and exciting for all the key stakeholders involved. A window of opportunity is open to embrace a collective vision for the industry to evolve into a modern, forward-looking driver of economic growth and prosperity around the world.
To achieve this goal, international organisations and global policy makers should embrace the principles outlined in the Muscat Compact to formulate clear policies, plans and actions that will help to advance the agenda of the road transport industry of the future. Moreover, and based on the principles and actions envisaged by the Muscat Compact, policy makers should, in cooperation with industry actors and international partners, develop clear indicators to monitor progress and measure the impact of global policies.
More specifically, governments across the world should accede to UN harmonisation conventions and formulate legislation, policies and measures that ensure the competitiveness of the road transport industry that functions as a level playing field for all those involved.
Industry actors, on their part, should step-up their efforts to decarbonise vehicles and improve safety and security.
Lastly, the financial community should make resources available to support the massive wave of digitalisation, automation and accelerated connectivity of vehicles, drivers and transport systems.
In short, the Muscat Compact is an invitation for governments, industry and other stakeholders to work together for a sustainable and competitive road transport industry that drives economic growth and prosperity to the benefit of all.
Photo by Eloy Comabella – Signatories of The Muscat Compact during IRU World Congress at Muscat, Oman, on November 7, 2018.
With the contribution of Marie-Hélène Vanderpool, Gayle Markovitz and John Kidd.