Automotive

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Transport Barometer: "Golden Autumn" Falls Flat

16-Feb-2016
Transport Barometer:
The economic climate cooled off significantly at the turn of the year as a result of faltering economic data in Europe, the refugee crisis and pessimistic shippers which also had an impact on the TimoCom transport barometer. The freight to vehicle ratio was 46:54 in the fourth quarter and therefore remained well below expectations even though the final quarter started off positively.

In October, the European transport market continued to build on the momentum of the summer. A freight to vehicle ratio of 49:51 for this month was slightly above the comparable figure for the previous year (48:52 in 2014). Particularly striking was the fact that the "normal" decline in freight volume between September and October was not as significant this year as compared to previous years. The freight share in this period dropped by five percentage points in 2013 and 2014, whereas this figure was just three percentage points in 2015.

Freight volume really started to go down in November. The freight share in the European transport market dropped by a total of eleven percentage points – the most significant decline between two months since 2011. The freight to vehicle ratio was 38:62 at the end of November. In the last quarterly report, TimoCom's Chief Representative Marcel Frings expected November to be a particularly positive month for freight having forecast freight share exceeding 50%: "Yet, the exact opposite happened. This illustrates why I should never pursue a career as a clairvoyant or as the 'Oracle of Erkrath'," says Frings with a grin, "and it also once again just shows how dynamic the transport and logistics industry really is".

The basis for his positive assessment was hard facts rather than a crystal ball. If you consider the historical data for both of the final quarters, the targets in the third quarter were set as if an upturn in the freight volume was expected for November.

However, this year customers, manufacturers and transport service providers were a bit late with their Christmas business. This delay in turn had a positive impact on earnings in December. The transport barometer pushed itself to the limit again in the final month and increased its freight volume by an unbelievable 13 percentage points. This type of final spurt has been unprecedented since data was first collected for the transport barometer. Thanks to this supreme effort, the month of December drew to a close with a minor freight surplus (51:49).

The freight to vehicle ratio for 2015 as a whole amounted to 47:53 in the final account and was two percentage points above the previous year (45:55). The freight share in all quarterly accounts was above the comparative value of the previous year. The outlook is cautiously positive. "2016 is currently difficult to assess without the gift of clairvoyance. Dealing with terrorist attacks and the heightened terrorist threat as a whole, the increase in security checks and how to address the refugee situation – these are all issues which have a direct impact on the European economy," explains Frings. "Irrespective of this, there are some positive signs for 2016. Spain and Ireland, for example, appear to have emerged from the financial crisis with stronger and higher quality growth. Consumption may prove to be a central pillar which benefits from rising employment and higher wages. In a diverse region like Europe, this positive effect will of course not be equally prevalent everywhere. However, it will still be sufficient enough for the growth figures to indicate a positive stabilisation effect rather than a prolonged downturn."

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