The impact of the pandemic on transportation has been discussed at the international level

10.06.2020

On 9 June 2020, experts of the Permanent Secretariat participated in the Informal Multidisciplinary Advisory Group Meeting on Transport Responses to the COVID-19 Crisis, organized by the Secretariat of the working group under the mandate of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

The virtual meeting brought together the representatives of 40 countries and 15 international organizations that shared information on the impact of the pandemic on the transport industry and measures taken both at the regional level and within the framework of multilateral platforms. On the outcomes of the discussion, we can make a conclusion in the following aspects.

Firstly, almost all participants agreed that the spread of coronavirus infection had the most negative impact on international road freight traffic, while the impact on railway transport was minimal. Mile-long queues at border crossing points are the proof of that.

The spread of COVID-19 demonstrated the unwillingness of countries and international organizations to ensure the smooth movement of goods by road and the normative determination of the coordinated measures among countries, which led to a shock to the world economy (more information about the speakers and their presentations can be found at the link https://www.unece.org/trans/main/wp5/virtual_multidisciplinary_advisory_group_meeting_on_transport_policy_responses_to_the_covid-19_crisis.html.
 
If there are proposals on this issue, they can be submitted to the Secretariat by 15 June).

Secondly, while countries were searching for the most suitable measures to protect against the spread of infection and to ensure the continuation of transport connectivity, international institutions, including the Permanent Secretariat of TRACECA, actively studied the experience of countries in order to harmonize measures based on the "best practices" and posted the most updated information.

According to the representative of the European Union, the most effective measures were limiting the border-crossing time to 15 minutes and launching an online portal with measures taken by the EU countries at the national level. In addition, the validity of documents of motor vehicle drivers is extended up to 6 months, which is a great relaxation. In May, Guide to restore traffic was also adopted. (more information on the website https://www.unece.org/trans/main/wp5/virtual_multidisciplinary_advisory_group_meeting_on_transport_policy_responses_to_the_covid-19_crisis.html).

The experience of Hungary shows that the coronavirus has had a negative impact on the volume of road transportation, while railway transportation has increased in recent months. An interesting fact is that the reduced load of the passenger transport infrastructure has created favourable conditions for its further development. For example, in the near future, it is expected to attract investments for the development of the capital's railway station for effective using the period with the low passenger traffic (the project implementation period has been moved from a later date to an earlier date).

Thirdly, most countries pointed out the positive effect of disseminating information about measures taken in the other countries. To minimize the impact of the pandemic in the future, most developed countries noted that the main focus in the future will be to shift to electronic border crossing procedures without physical contact and with the minimal human involvement. It is also important to ensure the transition to the electronic document management in transport.
It is also necessary to coordinate at the interstate level, since the introduction of digital technologies in one country will not have a positive effect throughout the whole transport route.

Fourthly, according to the International Road Transport Union, a 24/7 monitoring service was provided for border crossing procedures. The impact of coronavirus is expressed in a 40% increase in empty movement, a 5% decrease in GDP and an increase in unemployment. According to the representative of the Union, most automobile transport companies are expected to go bankrupt within the next few months. 

The Union highlighted the importance of adopting a plan to restore the sphere of road freight transport (the measures proposed by the Union are published on its website).

Fifthly, the World Customs Organization noted the posting on its website of the Instructions on Work during the crisis, information on the work experience of 113 members during the pandemic, as well as the document with the best practices in 4 main categories. Today, the Organization continues to coordinate its work at the international level (for more information, see the website http://www.wcoomd.org/en/topics/facilitation/activities-and-programmes/natural-disaster/coronavirus.aspx).

In general, on the basis of the views of representatives of countries and international institutions, it can be concluded that the pandemic has had a negative impact on the volume of goods transported by road due to the congestion of vehicles at the borders. To further ensure the smooth functioning of road transport at the international level, coordination and integrated management of border crossing processes are required.

On the other hand, the spread of infection has become a kind of catalyst for the introduction and use of electronic transport documents with the transition to the digital border crossing points along the transport corridor. This confirms the correctness of the course chosen by the TRACECA countries aimed at increasing the competitiveness of the corridor at the international level by creating a digital ecosystem of the corridor and simplifying the process of border-crossing once again. Therefore, it is significant at the initial stage to make efforts to adopt the Harmonized Conditions for the Transport of Goods among TRACECA countries under the spread of pandemic and to introduce a single electronic transit permit among TRACECA countries.

Published:

Permanent Secretaritat of the IGC TRACECA