Future changes in the road freight transportation industry: An application of future scenarios

University essay from Örebro universitet/Institutionen för naturvetenskap och teknik

Abstract: The road freight transport industry is facing radical changes that have the potential to fundamentally change the industry and pressure actors to embrace sustainability throughout their operations and implement technology in the broadest sense. The road transport industry is permeated by the use of fossil fuels and accounts for a significant part of the total CO2 emissions in the world. The entire industry is facing a fossil-free transition to reach the global environmental initiatives that countries have undertaken. At the same time as the industry is phasing out fossil fuels and using more sustainable fuels, the literature has a coherent view that transported goods are expected to increase significantly, and the imprint of the COVID-19 pandemic is increasingly affecting the industry with shortages of drivers and more vulnerable supply chains. This study has aimed to identify changes that affect the road freight transport industry in the short term (0-5 years) and the long term (5-20 years) with a focus on Europe. Furthermore, the study has applied the results of the study to a framework of future scenarios that previous research has contributed with, in collaboration with over 50 industry experts from the transport industry, to evaluate the impact of the changes concerning the expected futures that the research has resulted in. The study has applied literature search, a document study, and interviews with actors from the industry to collect relevant data and has resulted in most of the identified changes that the road transport industry is expected to be affected by in the short and long term.  The changes have been divided into three levels: ecosystem, business, and technology. The macro factors that affect the industry are increased regionalization and urbanization, increased customer requirements and consumption, and extensive introduction of laws and regulations concerning environmental impact and technology. Furthermore, the business changes are increased operational costs, the establishment of partnerships and alliances, circularity, and lack of staff. The technical factors consist of AI, IoT, and new more sustainable fuels. The primary effects include increased local production of goods that contribute to shorter transport distances but more transport, fossil-free transport with mainly electricity and hydrogen as fuel and thus new establishments of electricity and hydrogen infrastructure, many global initiatives to achieve sustainability, extensive application of technologies to streamline supply chains as well as more comprehensive rules and requirements regarding new unexplored technologies. Furthermore, future scenarios have been applied to evaluate the possible impact on the industry, which is visualized in figure 14. Suggestions for further research in the field are changes in the industry that take place but which this work has not addressed as it is not perceived as having significant effects on the road transport industry, such as increased deliveries of fresh goods, 3D printing, multimodal transport, and an older population and thus increased shipments of medical devices. 

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