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Tackling Asia’s connectivity gaps IRU outlines solutions at regional event
Asia | Ulaanbaatar

Tackling Asia’s connectivity gaps: IRU outlines solutions at regional event

13 Nov 2023 · Prosperity

IRU’s Secretary General presented key measures to address connectivity gaps in Asia and beyond at ITF’s regional high-level conference in Mongolia.

As the foundation of international supply chains, transport is the lifeblood of global trade, underpinning all economic activities.

While trade patterns across the region are evolving rapidly, road transport is allowing landlocked countries to become land-linked, connecting them to their neighbours and global markets.

At the second International Transport Forum Regional High-Level Dialogue for Asia in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, IRU Secretary General Umberto de Pretto said, “Emerging economies are, encouragingly, making up an ever-greater share of global freight volumes, but inefficiencies are creating bottlenecks at borders. Trade facilitation tools, such as TIR, were developed for exactly this purpose: to streamline border operations.”

“With internationally harmonised digital tools, such as eTIR and e-CMR, we can maximise transport and transit procedures. How can we have the audacity to talk about sustainable development goals, underpinned by economic development, social equity and environmental protection, when our drivers and goods are stuck at borders, not for hours, but for days, and sometimes even weeks.”

“While investments in infrastructure, vehicles and hardware are important, indeed, the road transport industry appreciates every millimetre of infrastructure built, the biggest return on investment comes from soft infrastructure, that is changing existing procedures. Also, we need to focus on people and their professional qualifications, which are vital to safe and sustainable transport,” he added.

IRU’s latest global driver shortage found that over three million truck driver jobs are currently unfilled in just 36 countries analysed. This number is expected to top seven million by 2028.

Umberto de Pretto at ITF regional high level conference in Mongolia

“To fundamentally address the chronic shortage of drivers, we need to improve working conditions and access to the profession to attract more people, including women and young people. During the COVID pandemic, we all saw that our drivers are real-life heroes, providing a crucial social and economic service, sometimes risking their own health and even life,” said Umberto de Pretto.

This year’s IRU Grand Prix d’Honneur was awarded to all professional bus, coach, taxi and truck drivers, in recognition of their collective bravery, courage and dedication in continuing to serve through the pandemic, conflicts and natural disaster rescue and relief operations, despite risks to their own lives.


Umberto de Pretto then addressed another key topic in transport and trade: decarbonisation. The commercial road transport industry, under IRU’s Green Compact, is committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

“To decarbonise, while continuing to meet growing transport demand, we have to start with a focus on efficiency measures, as well as, in parallel, a longer-term investment in operationally and economically feasible alternative fuels – and the infrastructure needed to operate medium- and heavy-duty vehicles with these new technologies,” said Umberto de Pretto.

“Efficiency wins with proven technology and available right now to cut CO2 emissions by nearly 50% include making border crossings, logistics, vehicles and drivers more efficient,” he added.

Tackling Asia’s connectivity gaps IRU outlines solutions at regional event
Tackling Asia’s connectivity gaps IRU outlines solutions at regional event


The International Transport Forum’s (ITF’s) Regional High-Level Dialogue is an annual event to foster collaboration among policymakers, industry leaders and stakeholders in the transport sector in Asia.

IRU’s decades-long partnership with ITF and its forerunner, the ECMT, dates back to the 1950s. Over the decades, IRU and ITF have worked together on major transport issues, including cross-border market access, harmonising rules and procedures, vehicle automation and decarbonisation.

The IRU Academy’s professional qualification standards have been acknowledged as one of the most effective ways to comply with the ECMT Quality Charter, recognising that international road haulage operators meet the highest environmental and professional performance standards.