Friday, April 26, 2019

Latest International Road Haulage Trial Promises Better Logistics Supply Chain Management

Digitalisation of CMR Documents Will Improve Freight Transport Process
Shipping News Feature
EUROPE – Digitalisation is the current buzzword in the world of logistics but has proven to be not just hype with the development of road haulage transit documents over the past few years. Anyone connected with international road freight is familiar with the ubiquitous CMR note and the implications of using such a document.

The development of the eCMR has been moving apace and has recently seen a pilot project claim to be the first ever border crossing with multiple countries on mainland Europe, using the electronic consignment notes on this route. During in February and March three road haulage operators from France, the Netherlands and the UK respectively, Transports FIOLET, International Road Ferry (IRF) and Brian Yeardley Continental, tested the viability of the system.

The operation was supervised by La Fédération Nationale des Transports Routiers (FNTR), TLN/ Beurtvaartadres, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) and the UK Department for Transport (DfT). The CMR convention, or the Convention Relative au Contrat de Transport International de Marchandises par la Route, to give it its full title, has been in place since 1956 and has evolved into an internationally accepted system of documentation evidencing the status of goods at any given point on their journey when properly utilised.

By accepting a CMR all parties are theoretically bound by the Convention and the system it would seem to lend itself relatively easily to full digitalisation with truck drivers ever more dependent now on laptops, phones and tablets thus making the final connection needed to enable full traceability.

The usual paper based CMR consignment note is an official document and contract between a consignor, carrier and addressee. It provides a paper trail of the logistics movement and is normally the sole document that the drivers of the trucks have in relation to the load they carry. With eCMR, shippers or transport operators will be able to electronically input, store and exchange logistics data, in real time, within the logistical chain.

The timely recording and exchange of logistics data means that users instantly receive information on the goods being transported, so any required subsequent actions, such as initiating legal processes, invoicing or even accident response procedures happen faster and at less cost. Switching to digital solutions also reduces the environmental impact of global trade, using less paper and providing data to optimize the logistical chain. It minimises the potential for human error and can adopt multi-language platforms for seamless international application.

The next step is for the UK to evaluate the Convention and once decided, ratify with the United Nations the eCMR protocol which could be in effect by the end of 2019. As the system proliferates so companies in a variety of countries are offering services associated with the technology. In Denmark for instance, one suitably titled firm has produced a video explaining how the system operates to the benefit of all parties and, following the latest trial, John Lucy, Manager of International Transport & Trade Procedures at the FTA, commented:

“The FTA is thrilled to be at the forefront of the next revolution in cross border transport and trade: the digitalisation of paper based documents. Digital technology has reshaped the way industries and governments operate for the last 20 years and international trade is no exception; efficiency, reliability and cost effectiveness of operations have been closely linked to the ongoing process of digitalisation.

”The anticipated increase in EU customs documentation requirements post-Brexit will accelerate this digital development; we are already seeing EU trials of e TIR and e ATA carnets to enable future frictionless cross border travel for freight. Underpinning this development will be the requirement for an electronic, internationally accepted consignment note; the eCMR will be at the core of this process.”