Covid-19 triggers European road freight change

Bath, UK: The coronavirus epidemic will prompt change in the European road freight market but only after it wreaks havoc in 2020, according to research by Ti Insight.

Transport Intelligence research shows that Covid-19 will wipe away any potential for growth in the European road freight market during 2020. The crisis caused by the pandemic looks set to be deep but also transformative.

The impacts are set to be a catalyst for structural change and the quickening pace of technology-driven transformation in the market.
Ti’s research shows the impact on market growth in 2020 could be devastating in a worst-case scenario, with failure to suppress a second wave of the pandemic and reopen economies across the region risking a 17% contraction in the European road freight market.

The new research, available in European Road Freight Transport 2020, shows Covid-19 has come at a time when the European road freight market was already facing challenges. Ti’s new market sizing for 2019 shows the market grew at just 1.1% in real terms, the slowest rate of expansion since 2013. Powerhouse economies were already struggling for momentum amid slowing industrial demand and the uncertainty of Brexit, trends likely to be exacerbated by the lockdowns implemented to fight Covid-19.

Ti projections show that the combined road freight markets of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK could contract by 5.6% in 2020, even if restrictions on economic activities are lifted and the virus is suppressed, a best-case scenario.

Rounding out coverage of the prospects for market size and growth is Ti’s new FTL/LTL market size split. The analysis shows that LTL will continue to take a greater share of the market up to 2024 but that this trend will begin to slow.

Ti’s new research also includes analysis of the evolving value propositions offered by the start-ups and disruptors that have entered the European road freight market in recent years. By taking advantage of the opportunities digitalisation provides, a generation of digital road freight start-ups are unbundling traditional road freight operations and capturing key aspects of the value chain.

“Thinking about the future of the European road freight market is a challenging prospect with so much in a state of flux. Looking ahead there will undoubtedly be a period of low growth as the market feels the effects of recessionary pressures in the wider economy. There will be a recovery though, and while the timing and pace of that recovery are still hard to predict, it seems certain this crisis and the recovery from it will result in a structural shift in market,” said Nick Bailey, Head of Research at Ti.

“In the coming years, we’re likely to see e-commerce become an even more important driver of growth and change in the market, and the current wave of digitalisation will find all the opportunity it needs to remove inefficiency and underutilisation from operations in all sectors. Those without the flexibility of operations and culture to react and adapt will be severely tested. There will be winners and losers and that will likely lead to a wave of M&A activity when the market finds a surer footing over the medium-term.”

Key findings from European Road Freight Transport 2020:
• The European road freight market is estimated to grow by a CAGR of 2.2% to 2024
• Covid-19 is arguably a catalyst for the transition to the ‘spot market’ as shippers look for a way to drive down costs
• Ti’s new FTL/LTL splits show that LTL will continue to take a greater share of the market up to 2024 but that this trend will begin to slow
• Digital road freight start-ups are unbundling traditional road freight operations and capturing key aspects of the value chain.


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