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August 14 2023

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August 14, 2023 | Journal of Commerce 43 a major part of the journey is by rail, inland waterways or short sea, with final legs by road as short as possible. However, EU plans to shift freight from road to rail have been woeful. In March, the European Court of Auditors (ECA), the EU's policy- checking body, delivered a scathing report that looked at the progress of modal shift efforts so far and found the targets for 2030 and 2050 were "unrealistic." The ECA noted that in 2010, rail and inland waterways represented about 25% of the total inland cargo handled in Europe, and by 2020 the share had dropped to 23%, with 77% of cargo carried by road. Road freight's door-to-door ele- ment makes it the most flexible of the transport modes, and it is far more efficient than rail. Trucking rates are also far cheaper than rail, while the competitive position of rail freight has been further undermined by soaring traction electricity prices that have outpaced increases in diesel prices, which are often subsidized by Euro- pean governments. JOC email: twitter: @greg_knowler surface transport modes to ensure the interoperability of road and rail freight transportation, as well as fair competi- tion between transport modes. The need to view freight transport in Europe through a multimodal lens is heavily supported by the Interna- tional Union for Road-Rail Combined Transport. Its chief policy advisor, Akos Ersek, highlighted the impor- tance of combined transport in the Greening Transport Package. "We believe in the combina- tion of modes, and in order to combine them it is imperative to have interoperability between the modes," Ersek told a webinar on July 20. "If any rules are decided separately, it will be very difficult to achieve interoperability and cooperation." Combined transport refers to intermodal shipments in Europe where Dirk Stahl, president of the ERFA, said the transport sector in Europe urgently required a more international and user-friendly railway system with cross-border capacity management reflected in rail freight's operating model. "If the European Parliament and Council are serious about growing rail freight and reducing freight transport emissions, we need an ambitious approach on this package," Stahl said in the ERFA statement. "These pro- posals have an important role to play." Another important proposal within the package was an upward revision of the Weights and Dimensions Directive that sets the maximum weight, length, width and height for heavy-duty trucks. The reasoning given by the Euro- pean Commission for increasing the weight and size limits is that zero-emission technologies tended to increase a vehicle's weight, and revising the rules to accommodate the heavier trucks would incentivize acceptance of cleaner vehicles. Combining transport modes But the ERFA said any revision of the directive had to consider all "If any rules are decided separately, it will be very difficult to achieve interoperability and cooperation." Despite efforts to shi freight off the road, trucks handled 77% of all inland cargo moves in Europe in 2020, up from 75% in 2010.

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