Driving the future of data: a global challenge for road transport

Land Transport

Source: IRU, 2020-10-23

Transport operators are massive generators of data. While digitalisation has the potential to increase efficiency, sustainability and safety, transport operators are at the same time concerned that there is currently no regulatory framework to ensure that they can reap the benefits of data sharing. 

The IRU EU Conference this week brought together EU decision makers, mobility and logistics leaders and technology global companies to discuss the governance of business-to-business data in road transport. 

Although targeted at the EU experience, where decision makers are contemplating legislating on data governance, the topic triggered global interest. This online event attracted more than 430 participants from 41 countries -including 28 outside the European Union. 

Ensuring that all players will embrace the digital transition

In her opening speech, the EU Commissioner for Transport, Adina Valean, emphasised the importance of data as a powerful weapon in digitalisation. At the same time, in response to the sector’s concerns, the Commissioner stated that “those who generate data, including transport operators, passengers and drivers, must be able to benefit from sharing this information with those who make use of it” and recognised that “[t]he digitalisation of transport must ensure fair rights and obligations for those who generate data and those who use them.” 

Transport operators are ramping up digitalisation efforts

Due to the Covid-19 crisis and its impact on the global economy, panellists and the audience confirmed that digitalisation in road transport will accelerate. “Digitalisation is one of the major levers of transformation for the road transport industry. Investing in technology is essential in terms of sustainability, safety, service and cost optimisation in the logistics sector,” said also Luis Gomez, European Transport President at XPO Logistics and panellist at the IRU EU Conference.

Although connected vehicles, automation or the use of online platforms have increased the amount of data generated by road transport operators, the industry is generally at an early stage when it comes to the handling, use and the re-use of data. 

The cost of data

The cost of the industry’s transition to a digital economy, which should not be underestimated, was raised by the panellists and the audience. Road transport businesses need to train their employees, upgrade their infrastructure and adapt their processes. The 80% of road transport companies are small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) while users of this data are dominated by large high tech IT companies.

Alex Saliba, member of the European Parliament and rapporteur on the future Digital Services Act aiming at regulating the platform economy in the EU, emphasised the need for support to the SMEs, including transport operators. 

Why a governance structure for business-to-business data is needed

“Our role is to create a virtuous ecosystem of data, serving all and make sure that our rights as data generators and users are preserved throughout the data chain,” continued Claire Martin, Executive Director of Keolis and IRU EU Conference panellist. 

IRU recently joined forces with major EU transport associations representing the rail, road, maritime and logistics sectors, calling for a fair governance structure for business-to-business data in a joint statement

Business to business data regulation will have to ensure that all businesses can remain competitive in the digital economy. 
“Around the globe, all eyes are now on the EU to enact the right legal framework for the governance of business to business data, to serve as an inspiration and a model for economies everywhere,” said Umberto de Pretto, IRU Secretary General. 

“IRU has a long standing record managing international data with, for example, more than 200m TIR e-transactions representing 3.5bn data exchanges. With this experience and trust, we will continue to address this important challenge globally,” he concluded.


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