More and more companies are aware that they need to reduce CO2 emissions from their transports. This will increase the demand for multimodal transport. In addition, it is certain that transport capacity will come under pressure, mainly due to the driver shortage. Currently, this problem is less acute because of the drop in industrial activity in Europe, but this situation is temporary. It is therefore written in the stars that demand for multimodal transport will increase. This is why Transuniverse Forwarding hired Ludovico Balduccio as a Multimodal Traffic Manager.
Ludovico’s (40) background is atypical in the transport sector: he holds a master’s degree in life sciences. After obtaining this degree at the University of Bologna, he moved to Ghent, where his wife lived. They met in Bologna, during an Erasmus exchange. “At Ghent University, I started a PhD on the economics of renewable energy and products. The focus was on the greening and sustainability of the economy. But after three years, I found that my work was too academic and not enough practice-oriented. In such an academic world, you are also somewhat lonely, while I am a team player. I therefore decided in 2014 to switch to the private sector,” he says.
“This is how I ended up quite accidentally in a transport company in Ghent, which at the time wanted to expand its traffic to Italy. For this, it was looking for someone who spoke Italian. That growth came, thanks in part to the provision of multimodal services. The result was the opening of its own office in Italy to consolidate this growth. The shift of operations to there meant I was again faced with a rather lonely working environment. By coincidence, I met people from Transuniverse and the conversation turned to multimodal transport. The click was there and I decided to make the switch to Transuniverse, where I became Multimodal Traffic Manager in January,” he explains.
Building (back) up gradually
Transuniverse took its first steps into multimodal transport several years ago in the conviction that demand for more sustainable transport would grow. Due to the pandemics, the disruptions in supply chains in Europe and the impact of high electricity prices on rail transport, among other things, these expectations could not be met. Nevertheless, our company remains convinced that demand for sustainable transport will grow. Ludovico must ensure that we are ready to meet that demand.
“The basis for that new start is already in place, because in recent years Transuniverse invested a lot in transport equipment adapted to multimodal transport. We have already 32 huckepack trailers and 38 45′ palletwide containers in our fleet. The transport market is cooling down a bit and thus this is a good time to build up this service step by step and to adapt our organisation accordingly. Today, we already offer three departures a week on two lines to Italy, but we expect to be able to offer daily departures fairly soon. And thanks to our available transport equipment, we can scale up quickly if necessary,” Ludovico adds.
Opportunities and challenges
Italy traditionally has a large market share in multimodal transport to and from Benelux. Transuniverse also sees a very high potential in a number of other traffics like the UK, Greece, Portugal and Spain. “Together with our partners’ equipment and our organization, we will be able in time to provide a multimodal service at large scale to all the countries. Certainly as new investments will be made in the future”, he points out. But he sees also a number of challenges.
“It is not easy to match the possibilities of multimodal transport with customer expectations in terms of price and lead times. Currently, intermodal transport is slightly more expensive than pure road transport, whereas before the pandemic it was the other way around”, he says. This is mainly because the explosion of electricity prices had a bigger impact on rail transport than the higher diesel price on road transport. Also the demand for road transport has fallen slightly due to the reduced activity of the industry in Europe, which led to a price squeeze. “Although we can say that this is a temporary situation: the driver shortage is becoming more acute and regulations are more stringent. I therefore expect demand for multimodal transport to rise exponentially over time,” Ludovico adds.
Trend is started
“What will also come into play is the changing mentality. Today, many large companies are aware that their transports need to emit less CO2. They are more open to a modal shift. SMEs are less aware that they too should opt for more climate-friendly transport. They often focus more on improving their production than on their supply chain. Multimodal transport is therefore outside their comfort zone. Transuniverse can help them do the ‘mental shift’, including by pointing out to them that multimodal transport is part of our offer. With my knowledge of the market, I can support them in their search for the appropriate solution,” he adds.
Transuniverse is ready
So Ludovico does not expect a sudden explosion in demand for multimodal transport. He is, however, convinced that this demand will gradually grow. “The trend towards more climate-friendly transport has set in and also the customers of SMEs will ask them what they are doing in terms of CO2 reduction. In addition, the industry will recover and the shortage of road transport capacity will increase. Our message to the market is therefore: we are already ready today to respond to the needs of customers who also want to use multimodal transport.”