The transport and distribution of goods after the state of emergency.

Although the transport and distribution of goods has not come to a complete halt during the period of confinement, an important part of it, such as that related to the non-health and non-food industry, has ceased to operate and the various problems suffered by the sector have been highlighted.

Current Status

In Spain, road transport and distribution directly employs 900,000 people and accounts for 5.2% of GDP.

Transport is undertaking a slow restart of its work, with major weaknesses and problems that have become apparent during the period since it was considered a "core business".

The average size of companies operating in this sector is three vehicles and just over five employees. A significant proportion are financially weak and operate on very low margins, even in good economic times.

Weaknesses and threats identified as a result of the Covid-19 crisis

In the new transport scenario, both at national and European level, several factors that directly affect the sector and its activity must be taken into account.

The health aspect:

The safety of the people involved in transport is a priority. They must have the necessary PPE to ensure their health, as well as to eliminate operational practices that exponentially increase the risk of the pandemic spreading, especially in the case of drivers involved in loading and unloading, and the exchange of packaging and pallets.

The operational aspect:

Limitations and rigidities in the regulation of working hours (driving, other work, breaks, etc.) have been found to undermine the health of drivers and the efficiency of the activity. Flexibility makes it possible to better organise breaks without "compulsory stops" along the way. This is why the regulation has been made more flexible.

Traffic imbalances have substantially increased the fleet's unladen return journeys, with the consequent loss of business.

The infrastructure situation:

The closure of roadside catering infrastructure has highlighted the lack of "rest areas" specifically dedicated to catering for professional transport.

The regulatory aspect:

At a time when the labour problems of certain activities in the so-called "last mile" have not yet been clarified, initiatives have arisen as a result of the increase in online commerce, from operators who, taking advantage of legal loopholes or even contrary to existing regulations, carry out tasks that do not correspond to them, to the serious detriment of authorised operators.

The change in consumer habits has led to an increase in "door-to-door" distribution. This change is here to stay and makes it necessary to adapt municipal regulations and infrastructures to it.

Proposals for an orderly reactivation of activity and minimising the negative effects of the crisis

The Corell Foundation's Mobility Think Tank, in drawing up the proposals set out below, can only recall that in the previous financial-economic crisis suffered by our country, the road transport sector lost more than 40,000 companies and 200,000 jobs, in the worst year, with a GDP decline of 4.5%. In the current crisis, this parameter is estimated at 9%.

We therefore believe that the administration should urgently initiate work with qualified representatives of the sector to update, elaborate and take regulatory action:

  • To extend the current situation of flexibility in terms of driving and rest times for as long as necessary and to re-study and implement changes which, without reducing rest periods, make them more flexible, in order to improve the well-being and reconciliation of drivers' work and family life.
  • That they speed up and facilitate the adaptation of staffing levels to real work levels, so that the inevitable ERTEs do not end up becoming definitive EREs.
  • To clarify the relations of transport companies with shippers and consignees, attributing to each the tasks that correspond to them, especially loading and unloading, which currently count as working time for drivers, with the corresponding reduction in the availability of driving time and increase in costs, and in which, due to physical contact and work on other people's premises, there is a real danger of contagion.
  • Encourage investment in infrastructures designed to facilitate the healthy development of the profession. Sufficient and well-equipped service areas for the rest and hygiene of drivers, the lack of which has become evident in this crisis, transforming, for example, the waiting areas that are set up in the event of snowfalls or on holiday departure dates into areas of attention for professionals, with catering facilities, services and above all surveillance and physical security for vehicles and goods.
  • Prevent transmission of the epidemic by transporting and exchanging packaging and other items that can be logistically reprocessed without risk.
  • That they commit the administrations to comply with the regulations on payments to suppliers and radically reduce the average payment period that currently strangles the liquidity of transport companies. Getting paid on time can save more companies than public subsidies, which can take months.
  • Apply Fiscal and Monetary policy aid to reduce the tax burden on the sector, which will help to overcome the financial crisis it is currently suffering and which could get worse, remembering that in 2019 transport made a commitment to the United Nations SDGs that should not be truncated.
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