The Impact of E-commerce on Transport in Europe

The Impact of E-commerce on Transport in Europe


R Demkes, J Becker and A Brummelman, TNO Inro, NL



h4. Problem

In 1999 and 2000 the attention for e-commerce was mainly triggered by the success of many Internet-initiatives. From 2000 until today, the attention springs from the downfall of many initiatives.

This has blurred the view on more fundamental questions like:

* What is the true size of e-commerce-related trade?

* Does e-commerce fundamentally change sectors and the way people do business? Many companies and governmental bodies struggle with these questions, given the amount of e-commerce-related events and conferences. Also at the policy level, attention is given to the relation between e-commerce and transport. For example, the OECD and ECMT jointly organised at 5 and 6 June 2001 a seminar on ?the impact of e-commerce on transport? with the purpose ?to analyse the interaction between e-commerce and transport, and assess the implications for transport of the growth in e-commerce?. There is a general feeling that policy attention to the consequences of e-commerce is necessary, but clear data on the direction and impact of e-commerce are lacking.

h4. Objective

The purpose of this study was to formulate a basis for transport policy for the European Parliament?s Committee on Regional Policy, Transport and Tourism on the basis of the most reliable forecasts possible on the growth of e-commerce induced freight traffic in the medium term. In addition, the study has generated suggestions to cope with the anticipated increase in the volume of traffic.

For Europe it is important to understand the developments of e-commerce and the impact it has on Europe as a whole and its economic sectors. On the one hand, it is important to support the development and adoption of advanced e-commerce solutions that may contribute to the competitiveness of European enterprises. On the other hand, it is important to mitigate possible negative consequences for the citizens, the companies and the environment. The main questions to be answered in this study are the following:1. To clarify the annual e-commerce-related growth in absolute figures in relation to EU-trade in the medium term.2. To quantify the impact of e-commerce on freight transport as regards of the mode of transport and transport routes.3. To assess the impact of e-commerce on the use of conventional delivery services and the mode of delivery. 4. To put a figure on the avoidance of physical freight transport resulting from dematerialization.

The agenda is quite ambitious for the project. Therefore, the main questions have been broken down toa limited set of research questions that allow a well-defined and step-wise approach to the different parts of the problem. In addition, a framework has been developed, which can be used to structure the field of research. The paper also deals with the challenges faced in the project and a feasibility of monitoring developments and benchmarking experiences.

h4. E-commerce framework

To sketch a complete picture of the relation between e-commerce and its impact on transport, the study also takes into account non e-commerce trends. After all: economic, spatial, and technical progress are very relevant for growth and other developments (such as modal split) of freight transport. The framework constructed for this study recognises the influence of non e-commerce trends on the ?actual environment?, which is the existing set of business structures, infrastructures, ICT-networks, goods and passenger flows, et cetera, at a given, i.e. the present, time. The behaviour of companies and individuals in this actual environment determines spatial planning, influences traffic and transport and the way logistical structures are developed.

The research framework has been used as a basis for the analysis of the research questions. Furthermore, it provides a new structure for new research questions in the field of e-commerce induced transport.

h4. Results

For exercising democratic supervision over the European Commission and sharing with the Council the power to legislate, the European Parliament must keep abreast with the current developments and should make its own policy for the near future. The European Parliament can join the developments by supra-national organisations like the UNCTAD and the OECD, but should also develop its own vision and course of action in this respect.

This study provides insight in the present facts and figures on E-commerce: the Internet usage, total E-commerce sales, e-commerce related trade, and dematerialization. In addition to this insight, the framework helps to understand the impact of E-commerce on the spatial planning, traffic and transport and the way logistical structures are developed.

On the basis of the results found in this study, the question is "what transport policy measures should betaken at Community level having regard to existing environmental standards in order to cope with any anticipated increase in demand for transport services?". This study identifies several policy actions that the European Parliament may undertake or support.


Association for European Transport