France roads

UK’s Road Transporters Should Be Ready for Vehicle Safety Changes in France

UK Logistics businesses are being warned to comply with new French safety regulations introduced on the 1st January or risk facing fines.

The legislation states that all vehicles weighing in excess of 3.5 tonnes driving in France must display stickers indicating driver blind spots. This extends to passenger transport and commercial vehicles. Additionally, all vehicles should be fitted with at least one indirect vision safety system, such as mirrors with a field of view that allows for no blind spots that are likely to obscure a vehicle about to overtake it. It also states that control devices must be in reach of the driver to use when the vehicle is moving.

This comes as welcome news to road safety campaigners and experts but have also issued the warning that mirrors are not sufficient to eliminate blind spots.

Emily Hardy from market leading provider Brigade Electronics UK, commented: “This legislation is a welcome change; however, it is important for operators to understand that mirrors alone do not eliminate blind spots. Therefore, they could still be fined according to the legislation’s requirements. We recommend fitting a range of vehicle safety technology such as Brigade’s DVS Safe System kits, to ensure operators comply with legislation across Europe and that drivers have full visibility of their vehicle’s surroundings.”

These kits are available in two different types; for rigid and articulated vehicles and include side cameras, ultrasonic sensors for the nearside of the vehicle and an alarm that activates when the vehicle is turning. Both kits are compliant with London’s Direct Vision Standard as well as EU law which gives drivers peace of mind when crossing the border.

Lafarge is one of the many companies to have benefitted from installing the kits to its fleet of concrete mixing trucks. With road safety being a concern for all of the construction industry, the company took progressive action to ensure the safety of their vehicles.

As well as the kits, Lafarge also installed Brigade’s bb-tek White Sound reversing alarm and Brigades Backeye 360, a camera designed to provide drivers with a 360-degree view of the vehicle.

President of Trans Route Béton, Othmane Jennane said: “With just one look, drivers have a complete surround view of the vehicle without any blind spots and the added peace of mind that pedestrians will also be warned by the white sound alarm. It provides absolute safety.”

This could potentially spell out further bad news for UK Logistics companies and driving within Europe as many changes to Customs regulations are being made as a result of Brexit.

Another challenge that firms have desperately tried to mitigate before 31st December was the sourcing of a sufficient number of customs clerks to be trained up and ready before the implementation of the new trading regime. Speaking last Autumn, Barney Weston, managing director of Oceanic Resources International warned that serious shortage was unavoidable.

On the current situation, he said: “I think most (firms) managed to get the bulk of their teams in place before the end of the year, but training and ‘filling the gaps’ continues. In most cases a Customs and Compliance Manager/ Brexit Head is in place (in firms) giving the strategic lead on how to handle the UK’s new trading relationship.”

He went on to say: “I know that in many cases training and upskilling is on-going, and there is still high demand for people to fill customs clerk positions, but it’s hard to accurately quantify this in numbers. Certainly, anyone who has ever sniffed a customs clearance in their career history is still worth their weight in gold!”

“I think the whole industry will have a clearer picture on the situation by the end of the month; so much was unknown heading into Brexit. I think that shortly people will know if they can handle demand with the current staff levels or if more will be needed.”

Air Cargo

Global Air Cargo Volumes Recover to Pre-COVID levels inside 10 Months

The global air cargo market has virtually recovered from the losses that the COVID-19 pandemic caused according to performance data for February 2021 from industry analysts CLIVE Data services and TAC index.

Chargeable weight for the last 4 weeks of the month, stood at 1% compared to February 2019 and 2% ahead of last year’s number. Niall van de Wouw, Managing Director of CLIVE data services commented the following that passenger airlines will be, “dreaming of such a recovery in passenger demand.”

CLIVE data will continue to compare first to market data to pre-pandemic numbers of 2019, to give a meaningful perspective of the industry’s performance. This is planned to occur until at least Q3 of this year. This will be produced alongside the 2020 comparison.

Capacity levels in February 2021 were -8% and -5% of 2019 and 2020 respectively. CLIVE’s load factor calculated both the volume and weight perspectives of cargo flown and capacity available was up 5% pts on February 2019 and 9% pts on February 2020. The overall dynamic load factor was the same as last months while the monthly volumes climbed 7% despite the short month of February as capacity rose 5% over January.

Van de Wouw added: “These are tricky months to compare due to the Chinese New Year and Leap Year variances, so we have to be careful in how we read the market. To give a meaningful view, it makes sense to keep an eye out to 2019 before the pandemic took hold and, on that basis, air cargo demand is now nearly at par with pre-COVID volumes despite much less capacity in the market. If we normalise for last year’s Leap Year, we can see a 2% growth in global volumes compared to February 2020 but that does not tell the tale by any measure – the apparently modest global growth number is masking what lies underneath. Volumes from China to Europe, for example, were nearly 5 times higher in the four weeks of February 2021 than in the similar weeks of 2020. This was caused by the dramatic drop in volumes because of the of the factory closures a year ago in response to the COVID outbreak. Volumes from Europe were down by -11% for the same period.”

“Demand is increasing and there are a lot of passenger planes sitting around that could start flying cargo, but I don’t think that will happen proactively. Given the high financial risks, when it comes to adding capacity, airlines are more likely to follow the market as opposed to trying to stimulate it. But if it makes sense, they will surely fly those aircraft. Air cargo has been resilient and, bit-by-bit, has clawed back the losses we saw only a few months ago. In April 2020, volumes were down -39% but are now back to the pre-COVID level. Who would have that possible inside 10 months? It’s a recovery airline passenger departments will be dreaming of.”

According to TAC index, volume, capacity and load factors continue to reflect the high price of transporting shipments via air cargo at the moment.

Robert Frei, Business Development Director at the company commented: “Volatility remains high (also intra month) and, given the much higher pricing levels than a year ago, is having a major impact. Looking at PVG-EUR, for example, if you are 10% off with your procurement today (which would be RMB 3.20) compared to 2020 levels, it would have meant a deviation of 18%. This presents a very risky environment for freight forwarders and potentially an immediate loss of their gross margins of 8-10%. So up-to-date pricing information on a weekly basis is an absolute necessity to manage these volatile periods. We also assume the spread of spot rates is likely to remain high.”

The latest data from TAC Index shows that despite the ‘mundane’ monthly pricing average there is still quite a lot of volatility in the weekly rate levels.

Data shows that the Baltic Exchange Index was +2% over January which also took Chinese New Year into account which is normally considered peak season but looking more closely at the impact on the PVG – EUR compared to previous years, TAX index observed the following:

• 2019 – overall period +8%
• 2020 – overall period -4%
• 2021 – overall period -13%

February 2021 saw the highest drop in yield compared to that of the previous years during the period around Chinese New Year. In absolute terms this compares as shown below:

• 2019 – average RMB 20 /kg
• 2020 – average RMB 17.5 /kg = – 11% to previous year
• 2021 – average RMB 31 /kg = +79% to previous year or +63% higher than 2019

TAC Index added that interesting observations have made when comparing other international routes such as HKG – EUR which stayed relatively flat in terms of pricing levels whereas the PVG counterpart increased by +7%. Meanwhile, HKG – USA went up 2%, whilst PVG – EUR went down by -1%.