- Violetta Bulc, the European Commissioner for Transport, is exploring the creation and use of autonomous vessels as part of a plan to “fully integrate the multimodal network” of transport, eliminating silos of methods that mask their costs, The Loadstar reported.
- According to Bulc, integrating an automated transport system will be safer and more efficient than the current method. The new model would connect users, infrastructure and cargo, and data will provide easier modes of capacity management.
- Job changes, along with a strong cyber defense system, would be part of the transition.
Freight forwarders, one of the larger players in the transport business, could disappear under a more coordinated system.
Efforts to reduce the need for freight forwarders are already in place as digitization of the shipping process grows, such as with DHL's CILLOX system, which directly links shippers and carriers in Germany with the rest of Europe. Although there are differing perspectives on the value of freight forwarding within cargo shipping, most agree that automated systems do a better job of managing details and requirements. Still others believe it's not the role of the freight forwarder that needs revising, but rather the disorganized, inconsistent and inefficient process of shipping item A to point B.
The plan to integrate shipping as a single industry is still a hefty task. Yet as greater digitization and transparency appear, the process could become easier — more a matter of pulling threads to create a tight cloth of coordination. But if middlemen such as freight forwarders are cut, resulting in job losses, regulators could frown on the implementation of new technology. As companies move forward with digitization to make their supply chains more cost-effective and efficient, they may have to face severe regulatory scrutiny, as autonomous trucks already are in the U.S. While freight forwarders may eventually be cut from the supply chain, it may take longer than expected as regulators seek to protect those who could lose their jobs.