EU authorities, government ministers and industry leaders debated digitalisation, decarbonisation and road transport beyond 2040 at IRU’s special anniversary event celebrating 50 years of representation to the EU.
Transport leaders and lawmakers filled every seat in the medieval celebration room of the Brussels Town Hall on the Grand Place for IRU’s special anniversary event celebrating 50 years of representation to the EU, with hundreds of people from across Europe following the conversations and debates live online.
The event featured three key sessions on the past, present and future of road transport, with opening remarks from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Brussels City Mayor Philippe Close, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet, and IRU President Radu Dinescu.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, “Today, we celebrate five decades of European integration through mobility and trade. The transport industry plays a crucial role in what is currently the biggest and most important challenge.
“With the European Green Deal, we aspire to be the first climate neutral continent before 2050. IRU, the world road transport organisation, is an indispensable partner in this journey.”
Brussels City Mayor Philippe Close said, “The city of Brussels has been hosting IRU’s permanent delegation since 1973.
“As a result of IRU’s harmonisation work, national transport laws have converged. Over this period, the face of freight and passenger transport has changed considerably in line with technical progress and economic development.
“The growing environmental awareness has also led to a more complementary approach to modes of transport with competition giving way to partnership.”
Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Mobility, Georges Gilkinet, said, “The road transport industry has been essential in the recent crises that we’ve faced.
“Like other sectors, the road transport industry is facing a three-fold challenge today: designing a model that is sustainable from a climate point of view, fair to its workers, and economically variable. These three are linked. As global demand for transport continues to rise, the transition to zero-carbon via electric or hydrogen is a necessity.
“Trucks are essential for local cross-border goods transport. It’s in its complementarity with rail and shipping that the sector must develop.”
IRU President Radu Dinescu said, “50 years ago, IRU opened a liaison office to the then European Economic Community.
"Today, IRU proudly represents 1 million road transport companies in the EU.
"Together, we have made EU road transport, safer, more efficient and greener.”
IRU Director EU Advocacy Raluca Marian complemented the keynote speakers’ opening remarks by reminding everybody that transport is about “everyday life, the way we move, the way everything around us is brought in and out”.
Looking back: building the European Union
The first session explored the building of the European Union, including the establishment of a common transport policy, the single market and the fall of the Iron Curtain to the pandemic and war in Ukraine.
Long-standing Member of the European Parliament and former Polish Transport Minister Bogusław Liberadzki highlighted the crucial role of road transport in Europe and Poland, “Trucks made Europe more available, more accessible. Drivers made Europe more integrated and coherent. Without trucks, Europe cracks.”
Former President of IRU's Passenger Transport Council Yves Mannaerts said, “Trust played a fundamental role in enhancing cooperation with IRU members from all over Europe and advancing green, safe and comfortable passenger transport."
The first session also included interventions from Former MEP (1994-2004) and TEN-T coordinator Mathieu Grosch, Ninatrans CEO and Vice President of VBO/FEB Benny Smets, European Transport Workers' Federation Road Transport Section President Roberto Parrillo, ADAMPOL CEO Krzysztof Dakowicz, SAMAT Group CEO and FNTR Vice President Florence Dupasquier, IRU member UPS Executive Vice President & Chief Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Officer Laura Lane, Sales-Lentz Group Associate partner and Vice President of IRU member FLEAA Jos Sales, M-L Logistik Group Project Manager David Marek, and Deputy Secretary-General for Policy Coordination of the European Commission Elisabeth Werner.
At a crossroads: decarbonising and digitalising transport
The second session featured a panel debate on two of the most pressing issues facing road transport, decarbonisation and digitalisation.
In the lead up to the panel, David Lucas Parrón, Secretary of State for Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda at the Spanish Ministry of Transport, said, “We are facing a great challenge: making the sector more appealing to young people.
"We can achieve this through digitalisation and decarbonisation.
“Intermodal cooperation can contribute to decarbonising transport. But above all, it introduces other ways of managing the transport chain, making it more inclusive without leaving any mode or transport behind.”
Spain will take over the six-month rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union on 1 July 2023.
The Minister of Transport & Communications of the Republic of Lithuania, Marius Skuodis, said, “Road transport is part of the problem and solution to today’s challenges.
“IRU has the institutional set-up to discuss and build on our values and long-term vision.”
The panel debate featured Marius Skuodis, IRU member Jan de Rijk Logistics Director Jacqueline de Rijk, Meyering Verkehrsbetriebe Trainer and Bus & Coach Business Manager Theresa-Jasmin Meyering, and IRU member Shell Commercial Road Transport Vice President Thomas de Boer.
The panellists debated the possible time frame for both passenger and goods transport to decarbonise, and the enabling conditions and incentives required for transport companies to reach net-zero while continuing to serve EU citizens, communities and industries.
The road ahead: EU mobility and logistics beyond 2040
The third session featured two futurists who unpacked EU mobility and logistics trends beyond 2040.
Professor Pero Mićić, CEO of FutureManagementGroup AG, foresees sweeping changes, “AI and autonomous vehicles will make transport more efficient, cheaper and safer.”
Sampo Hietanen, Founder of MaaS Concept and CEO of MaaS Global, commented on private versus collective transport, “The need for private cars is not an ideological question – it depends on demographics, cost and the availability of viable alternatives.”
IRU Director EU Advocacy Raluca Marian concluded the event with a simple message for transport leaders, “Take action to shape the future!”
Watch the replay and relive IRU’s special anniversary event celebrating 50 years of representation to the EU.