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What to expect in the European road transportation sector for 2023 and beyond

Published on 12 December 2022 - 5 reading minute(s)

More online sales, greater durability, electrification, more digitalisation, more innovation... No fleet manager, regardless of the fleet's size, will miss these four major short- and medium-term trends in the road transportation sector. Let our two Michelin* experts save you time by giving you the main takeaways.

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Nathalie Duroux, Director Customer and Market Intelligence Truck & Bus Business Line Michelin
Laurent Tridemy, Insight & Strategic Foresight Manager Michelin

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#1 : E-commerce is set to gather speed

While the electronic commerce sector was already showing steady growth before the pandemic, the blanket lockdowns sent it through the roof! For EU countries collectively, e-commerce generated a total revenue of 757 billion euros in 2020(1).

In Europe, digital adoption went from 81% to 95% following the COVID-19 crisis: an increase that would have taken two to three years in most business sectors at pre-pandemic growth rates(2). And the trend is set to continue.

Note that while consumers are making more and more of their purchases online, their expectations have increased, in particular with regard to immediacy. Quasi real-time delivery of goods has become the new normal across all sectors.

#2: Sustainable mobility is a must-have

The biggest challenge facing the transportation sector is reducing its emissions to become more sustainable. Regulations are constantly becoming more stringent, in particular with the new VECTO (Vehicle Energy Consumption Calculation Tool) standard.

For last-mile deliveries in urban areas, delivery vehicles are already on the road to electrification.

And yet, according to the IHS, in 2030, 90% of M&HCV (Medium & Heavy Commercial Vehicles) will still be running on diesel. In 2035, they will represent 64% of vehicle sales. That number is not expected to dip below the 50% mark until after 2040, but diesel-powered vehicles on the road will remain in the majority until 2050(3).

  • Accordingly, based on fuel-price forecasts and also the cost of technologies and regulatory constraints:
  • Diesel is expected to remain the most competitive option in terms of costs, and the dominant fuel for road transport up until 2040.
  • Hybrid vehicles could buoy up diesel's resilience in the event of pressure on the emissions of GHG (greenhouse gases) and pollutants.
  • Natural gas seems to be the fuel most comparable to diesel in terms of total cost of ownership, and also helps reduce emissions of carbon and pollutants.

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#3: Digitalisation for fleet optimisation

When we talk about digitalisation, we have in mind not only all of the freight platforms, but also the telematics aspect, with connected trucks now enabling predictive maintenance.

Telematics makes it possible to collect data that artificial intelligence can then use to optimize fleet management.

In Europe today, 38%(4) of the vehicles weighing over 6T are connected.

In the medium term, digitalization should make it possible to link up all of the data flows and factors…

#4: Innovations in progress

Innovation in transport inevitably brings to mind autonomous vehicles, for which we can distinguish five levels of autonomy (from 1 to 5). Level 1 corresponds to driver assistance, while level 5 is a fully-autonomous vehicle. Level 3, a semi-autonomous vehicle, is expected to be achieved by 2025.

Level 5 is still a long way off, but it will promote platooning (the use of road convoys or platoons), which will shrink the ecological footprint (since reducing fuel consumption lowers CO2 emissions) and improve safety (by reducing the risk of human error, in particular emergency braking).

This is a technology that is gradually being rolled out and which will not be mature until 2035, but which we should already be bearing in mind.

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The main trends in the road transportation sector at a glance

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* Interview by Nathalie Duroux and Laurent Tridemy conducted on 6 october 2021.

(1) FEVAD report -
(4) Analysis & reports from BCG and Berg Insight 2021

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