International shipments of goods: By air, sea, rail or overland trucking?
Shipments by air are attractive because of their speed. Maritime routes benefit from low transport costs. However, both options have their disadvantages: airfreight can sometimes be very expensive; sea freight is particularly unsuitable for time-critical goods and is often subject to delays and fluctuations for delivery times. The Covid-19 crisis is also playing a major role: time-critical imports from China like protective masks, vaccines and medical equipment are in huge demand and have to be delivered as quickly as possible without delays.
Alongside this, capacity for sea and airfreight has fallen significantly and transport costs are rising in line with this. As a result, the road corridor between Europe and China is becoming increasingly important. It is true that the Covid-19 crisis has had an effect here, too, as only a limited number of trucks have been allowed to cross the border between China and Kazakhstan at times. Despite this, trucks offer a universally efficient solution with benefits in terms of transit times, freight costs and their availability for the cross-border shipment of goods.
Transporting goods by road is efficient in terms of time and costs
So-called cross-border trucking is cheaper than airfreight and faster than sea freight, with transit times of less than 20 days. Trucks can transport any kinds of goods, even hazardous items and large-volume freight, which are unsuitable for shipment by air. When compared to rail traffic, the overland alternative for shipping freight, delivery times are also significantly shorter. Customers benefit from great flexibility and do not depend on airports, railway stations and seaports as pick-up and final delivery runs to and from terminals are eliminated. The departure times can also be freely selected and container availability does not play a role either.
As a result, more and more customers are viewing cross-border shipments by truck as a quick and cost-efficient solution and are including them in their annual tender procedures. One of the routes along the New Silk Road takes trucks from China to Germany via Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland. Germany is used as an important logistics hub for Europe in order to transport goods on to other countries, e.g. to France, as a natural extension of the trading route.
Cross-border shipments: FTL or LTL?
The goods have to be transported in a sealed vehicle under the TIR Convention. A distinction is made between two ways of loading the vehicles: if a shipment fills all the space on board the truck, we talk about a full load or full truck load (FTL). Customers use the most direct and most cost-efficient way of transporting the goods from the loading point to the final destination or place of use – and all of this regardless of the type of product, the weight, the special requirements or the distance involved. In contrast, less than truckloads (LTLs) describe partial loads or shipments, which only fill part of a container because of their low volume. Customers’ goods are consolidated, i.e. they share the carriage with other recipients and benefit from a cheaper solution. The shipments are separated again at the destination and delivered to their final place of use. This model maximises the load factor and the efficiency of cross-border freight shipments, and reduces the environmental burden across the supply chain.
What is required for cross-border trucking?
Particular demands are placed on cross-border trucking and customers should find out about them in advance. For example, dangerous goods classes 1, 6.2 and 7, i.e. explosive materials, contagious or radioactive substances, are not suitable for road transport. Certain goods are also forbidden under the TIR Convention: alcohol and products derived from it (classified under HS Code 22.07.10 and 22.08) or tobacco and products derived from it (classified under HS Code 24.02.10, 24.02.20, 24.03.11 and 24.03.19) cannot be transported between China and Europe using cross-border trucking. If customers want to use an FTL service, a certain loading capacity is necessary, e.g. when using mega tilt trucks or wing open trucks, where the sides of the vehicle can be opened like wings. Depending on the type of load, trucks with air suspension are used to prevent the risk of damage if the goods are fairly valuable
Conclusion: cross-border trucking as the most advantageous mode of transport
The demand for imported and exported goods is continuing to increase, not least of all since China joined the TIR Convention. Transporting goods by road is particularly efficient in the light of the fact that the continents of Europe and Asia form a connected land mass and shipments can therefore take place along historically developed transport routes. It is absolutely clear that cross-border trucking offers customers a cost-efficient solution, which can be viewed as the most advantageous mode of transport between faster, but more expensive airfreight and even cheaper, but much slower sea freight. It ensures a time- and cost-efficient alternative, particularly during exceptional economic times, when other means of transport are unsuitable because of their restricted availability.
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Explanation of sea, air and cross border truck
The demand for imported and exported goods is continuing to increase, not least of all since China joined the TIR Convention. Transporting goods by road is particularly efficient in the light of the fact that the continents of Europe and Asia form a connected land mass and shipments can therefore take place along historically developed transport routes.