Speech at the high level conference "The Future of Road Freight Transport"; Brussels. [CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY]

  • Dear Fatih,
  • Ladies and Gentlemen,

The report of the IEA on the "Future of Trucks" is very timely, and it is a very valuable input to the European discussion on the future of road transport and mobility more broadly.

The substantial analysis proves the need and the urgency to act on road freight vehicles and the freight system.

I hope that many in Europe will read the study and remember it when they discuss the policy proposals that the Commission has and will put on the table this year and early next year.

The link between energy security, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and air pollution on the one side and road freight transport on the other side is made very clear by the study.

Road freight is a global challenge. Therefore, the European Union musts live up to its responsibility and show leadership.

I see our responsibility twofold: we must bring our own house in order and we must at the same time lead the global change in this area.

The Commission has outlined its approach to the future of mobility in Europe in a recent initiative entitled "Europe on the Move". The first part of this initiative was adopted on 31 May and focused on road transport.

This is part of the implementation of the Low-Emission Mobility Strategy that we adopted in July last year.

The first part of the initiative is a wide-ranging set of measures designed to make traffic safer, encourage smart road charging, reduce CO2 emissions, air pollution and congestion, cut red-tape for businesses, fight illicit employment and ensure proper working conditions for everyone in the sector.

Our objective is a transport sector which is competitive but also socially fair in its transition towards clean energy and digitalisation.

The IEA have identified "three key enablers that present important short-term energy policy opportunities":

  • encouraging vehicle efficiency and fuel economy;
  • supporting systemic improvements in road freight operations and logistics and
  • boosting the use of alternative fuels and alternative fuel trucks.

I couldn't agree more.

Let me start with vehicle and fuel efficiency.


II. Vehicle Efficiency and Fuel Economy

Our estimates suggest that freight transport in Europe will grow by some 60% from 2010 to 2050.

Heavy Duty Vehicles account for around 25% of EU road transport CO2 emissions and HDV emissions are to rise by up to 10% between 2010 and 2030.

The figures make it obvious that we have to take action. We must promote more fuel-efficient HDVs, not only to curb emissions, but also to ensure our competitiveness in the global race for clean technologies.

Our Mobility Package of 31 May already includes a proposal on monitoring and reporting of CO2 emissions and fuel consumption by HDVs.

Manufacturers of new large trucks would have to calculate their CO2 emissions and fuel consumption as of January 2019.

The Commission would collect and publish these data to increase transparency and close the knowledge gap on vehicle performance.

This would enable transport operators to make better-informed decisions on purchases and thus reduce fuel bills which can – in the case of SMEs - represent around 30% of the operating costs.

In addition to this, we aim at proposing new legislation on HDV fuel efficiency standards in early 2018. This will be the first ever EU legislation specifically addressing HDV emissions. The IEA report reminds us that others like the U.S., Japan or China already have standards.

Of course, our proposal will not be a "copy-paste" but will be based on a solid impact assessment. We want to identify the most suitable solutions for the European Union.

Let me come to the second key enabler: systemic improvement in road freight and logistics.


III. Systemic Improvements in Road Freight / Logistics

We need a more efficient freight and logistics system.

Digitalisation, big data, automation, self-driving and low-emission vehicles, the Internet of Things, 3D-printing, artificial intelligence – all these are potential game-changers for the entire system.

They can make a difference in terms of efficiency, competitiveness and better use of existing resources and infrastructures.

This is true in particular for data. Data is the "new transport fuel" and driving the development of innovative services:

Better information on traffic and infrastructure, supported by truck routing systems. This will enable speed and route adaptations and thus reduce fuel consumption. Let me recall in this regard the importance of Europe's highly precise Galileo Navigation Satellite System which is a cornerstone of the EU's space policy.

Enhanced supply chain data and management; the sharing of data and capacity can facilitate freight "bundling" and asset-sharing which can improve vehicle load factors and reduce the number of "empty runs".

Automated and connected vehicles and connectivity will allow for real-time adaptation of planning, thereby enhancing logistics efficiency.

Better information on GHG emissions from transport services can facilitate benchmarking and drive overall efficiency gains.

But even if innovation means a better use of existing infrastructure, it will still be difficult to accommodate rising mobility demands and avoid "saturation" of the road system.

Therefore, we must strengthen multi-modal transport. We want to address this, e.g. in the planned revision of the Directive on Combined Transport later this year.

We must make use of all transport modes and combine them. For this, we need to overcome technical and administrative bottlenecks, have the right physical and digital infrastructures and operate corridors and hubs as a network.

This will benefit all modes and all users and is – as I said – necessary to keep our transport system functional.  

Let me come to the third key enabler: the use of alternative fuels.


IV. Using Alternative Fuels

We need a gradual transformation of our transport system.  For this, there is no single fuel solution. All main alternative fuel options must be pursued, with a focus on the needs of each transport mode.

Since public procurement represents a large part of the market, it can stimulate demand for low and zero emission vehicles. We will therefore propose a revision of the Directive on Clean Vehicles later this year.

At the same time, research and development remain essential.

The electrification of transport should accelerate. The Commission will support for example industry-led initiatives for a full battery value-chain in the EU.  

Likewise, advanced biofuels and other low carbon fuels can help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels - at costs similar to those of petrol and diesel in the medium term.

Clearly, however, the prospects for low-emission alternative energies differ among transport modes. For road freight, further improvements in the internal combustion engine will still be needed. 

In the medium-term, advanced biofuels and natural gas will be particularly important. The potential of natural gas can be increased significantly with power-to-gas technologies (use of bio- or synthetic methane).

But, we are also clear that the availability of most alternative fuels depends on dedicated infrastructures to deliver them, outside the current refuelling system.

We are working on a new initative to accelerate the roll-out of Alternative Fuels Infrastructure across Europe and will present this as part of our Mobility Package later this year. 


V. conclusion

To conclude, let me recall two  insights of the IEA report:

First, addressing the problems of the road freight sector is challenging, but possible.  There is no single "magic solution" that will solve all our problems. But a combination of practical, technological, policy- and business-related responses will work and will ensure the vitality of this important sector.

Secondly, there is a need for cooperation and coordination across many sectors and stakeholders. Let me assure you that the Commission is ready for this cooperation – in Europe and the world.

Thank you for your attention!