Interview: Carsten Hemme, Managing Director of Paneuropa Transport GmbH, on the advantages and challenges of rail transport
What does combined transport offer freight forwarders? More climate-friendly transport and the possibility to react faster to volatile transport volumes. Rail transport allows you to handle different amounts of cargo with far fewer drivers and tractor units while accommodating mixed and unstable loads. This facilitates planning and helps you avoid having 50 tractor units standing around during the holiday season. The fact that you are allowed to take 4 tonnes more onto the tracks is another plus. And the rail option can partially attenuate the problem of the many freight forwarders that are currently going out of business.
What does rail transport demand from transport service providers? The scheduling department has to rethink and become familiar with details such as timetables and acceptance times. Delays often have far-reaching effects: whereas a lorry stuck in a traffic jam may be delayed for a few hours, this can stop a train for a whole day. Your customers have to follow suit and come to terms with longer lead times, among other things. This often requires more communication on the forwarding side.
What do you personally see as the greatest benefit for your own company? We are more independent and can reliably handle our customers’ orders. We have been focusing on combined transport since 2002 and have only ordered trailers that are suitable for railway use since then – whether they are used on the road or not. And we were already expecting an increasing shortage of drivers back then in view of the demographic development. Most of our transport operations go to Italy, where professional drivers are separated from their families for several weeks. However, if they only bring the goods to the railway and pick them up from there, they can already be back home in the evening.
What has to change? We need longer trains and, like pilots, train drivers should have an official international language so that the same driver can continue when the train crosses borders. A second rail track would also be helpful. More goods can only be transported by rail if investments are made in a rational and targeted manner.