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First China to Europe TIR truck secures trade flow in record time


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New Zealand Trucking  /  November 2018

The success of the first TIR [a globally applicable international customs transit and guarantee system] journey by road from China to Europe proves the system’s cost, time and security advantages. It is set to boost trade between China and Europe, unlocking a critical Belt and Road route and offering development opportunities across Eurasia.

The first TIR truck transport from China to Europe started its 7000 km journey at the Khorgos border, entering Kazakhstan and travelling through Russia and Belarus to Poland in just 13 days – with a door-to-door cost and delivery time competitive with both air and rail. 

This TIR transport initiative is a joint effort between IRU, the global industry association for road transport, and global leading logistics companies, including CEVA Logistics, Shanghai Jet-rail International Transportation, and Alblas International Logistics as the operator. The truck left China on 13 November, arriving at its destination in Poland without any disruption or customs issues on November 26.

IRU secretary general Umberto de Pretto says the milestone will be a game changer for cross border transport in China. “This first TIR journey by road from China to Europe is a win-win-win model for business, trade and governments.

“It shows that the system is secure and also highly competitive in terms of cost and time relative to other modes of transport on similar routes. It will boost trade between China and Europe, which will help China and the countries along the Belt and Road route to reap the economic and development rewards of international road transport. It is also a wakeup call to European hauliers – who can seize the opportunity to benefit from round trip operations.”

CEVA Logistics Greater China EVP Torben Bengtsson said they foresaw a great future for road transport from China to Europe.

“The pilot proves that it could save up to 50% door-to-door cost compared with air, and at least 10 days delivery time compared with rail. The market is eager for the new product, we have a lot of customers waiting for the start of a regular service. During the coming weeks we will prepare to start regular operations as early as possible in 2019.”

A key role was played by the Chinese branch office of Alblas in Ürümqi. Jan Alblas, CEO of Alblas (Netherlands), stated that the historical event took years of preparation.

“We are the first transport company ever that conducted a TIR transport from China to Europe. Being the only European transport company in China with an international transport licence, we are able to execute the entire transport door-to-door with our own transport equipment and our own drivers. We are pleased with the results from the test and still see room for further optimisations in order to achieve the ideal transport time of 10 days from China to Europe.”

In September 2018, Kazakhstan and China opened the new border crossing at Khorgos to boost transport and trade along the new Western China to Western Europe 8,445 km expressway – part of China’s Belt and Road project. The World Bank predicts the corridor will more than double road freight volumes between China and Europe. With this first TIR transport, operations along this corridor are now ready to deliver economic and social benefits to the whole region.




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Agreed. But with today's modern high-speed road networks, the viability of the concept has made significant leaps forward.

At present, there are now several freight trains running between Europe and cities in China that naturally move cargo far faster than ships.

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How a WWII agreement allows trucks to travel from China to Europe in just 13 days

Freightwaves  /  December 11, 2018

A couple of weeks back, a truck hailing from China drove into the depths of central Asia as it journeyed West, traversing through Kazakhstan and Russia to enter Europe through Belarus and finally unloading its freight in Poland. Though a lot of trucks have likely traced this path before, what is of particular interest is the time frame and the manner in which it was accomplished.

The whole journey took just 13 days, which is nearly twice as fast as railroad transport between the two destinations, and with a door-to-door cost that is half that of air freight. But it couldn’t have happened without China’s entry into the World Road Transport Organisation (IRU) TIR system, an agreement that shaves off numerous border control checks and red-tape regulations.

Transports Internationaux Routiers, abbreviated TIR, is a system that was first introduced post-World War II to facilitate trade between countries across both the Allied and Axis Power factions that were still smarting from wounds caused in the war. Trading between countries that were a part of TIR was easy as road transport operators had to only declare their data once when they were hauling goods across multiple borders. The idea behind TIR was simple - enable effortless trade transactions would induce economic growth, a development that in theory would also help sustain peace.

The system was fine-tuned along the way and today, IRU provides a guarantee to the tune of 100,000 euros per truckload, which is dispensed in case of infractions on the freight. This made TIR a prudent choice for customs departments as well as for transport operators, who found this system inexpensive when considering the alternative of getting a bank guarantee for every border crossing.

On account of this landmark road initiative, FreightWaves spoke with Umberto de Pretto, the Secretary General of IRU, to discuss the finer points behind this new trade flow. “TIR has gotten countries to trade and talk to each other after the Second World War, and there has been peace in Europe thanks to this. Now, we want to make sure that all the other regions benefit from this as well,” he said.

Following on China’s heels, India and Pakistan have also joined the TIR initiative, thus opening up 40% of the world’s population to seamless cross-border trading. De Pretto remarked that one of the reasons for the Asian countries to take so long to join the TIR could be attributed to lack of awareness on what the system entails.

“And there is also the false assumption that the TIR system - because it originated in Europe, would be a very expensive system,” he said. “Another reason is that regional efforts that were made to come up with transit systems have largely failed. So for these countries, I think it is also the frustration of not being able to put something in place that works.”

With manufacturing giant China in the picture, de Pretto explained that TIR would make commodities coming out of the country cheaper, while providing leverage for Chinese businesses to trade seamlessly beyond its borders. “The moment you have access to other global markets, it’s a win for the market that’s receiving, but also a win for the market that is exporting those goods,” he said. “And it is more attractive to the consumers and you’ll have more consumption and people selling those goods will have a greater return on their investment.”

De Pretto spoke about the success of the pilot run between China and Europe, explaining that the 13 days it took for the initial run could be further reduced to 11 days in the future. This is huge, as expediting freight hauling would help large businesses save millions in inventory costs.

“One example is Philips, which made an assessment a few years back saying it would save $50 million globally for every one day it can reduce its stock-holding time on goods that are held up,” said de Pretto. “And that’s just one company. In economic terms, unless the goods are moving, there’s going to be somebody who’s going to be penalized.”

De Pretto insisted that a railroad extension of China’s ambitious BRI initiative all the way to Europe would not have a direct bearing on the TIR-enabled market. “I don’t think there will be competition between rail and road transport, but it would be complementary. And you could move those containers by rail with the TIR convention because TIR applies to containerized movements,” he said. The IRU is actively encouraging the Chinese government to use TIR for their container movements on rail, as in the absence of a regularized environment, border hassles cannot be siphoned away.

“The more we can facilitate trade, the more we will drive progress and prosperity, and in some regions, even peace. And I cite in particular the Middle East where we see quite a bit of conflict. We want to bring economic stability through road transport,” said de Pretto. “We want to make sure that the trucks bring prosperity to every village, and not just to the major hubs. We want to interconnect every village in Central Asia or Africa to the major world economies, and help them get their produce to the market.”

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First TIR transport from Europe to China arrives in only 12 days

New Zealand Trucking  /  March 2019

The first successful TIR [Transports Internationaux Routiers or International Road Transports] transport from Europe to China was completed on Tuesday after a 7400 km journey from Germany to Khorgos, a major Chinese overland Belt and Road port.

Carrying 12 tonnes of automobile lubricant in challenging winter conditions, the TIR truck started its journey in Germany, entering Poland and travelling through Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan to China in just 12 days without disruption or customs issues.

This TIR journey follows last year’s first TIR transport from China to Europe (Khorgos – Poland, 7000 km in 13 days), jointly conducted by IRU and global leading logistics companies, CEVA and Alblas.

With TIR operational in China, the China-Europe-China road corridor offers excellent opportunity for boosting international trade. The conclusion of this latest successful pilot from Europe to China marks the full activation of door-to-door TIR operations between China and Europe.  

According to one industry estimate, China-Europe road transport under TIR could save transport companies up to 50% on door-to-door costs compared WITH air, and at least 10 days delivery time compared with rail.

“This TIR transport marks a major milestone for operations along the China-Europe corridor, which will now deliver economic and social benefits to all countries along the Belt and Road route,” said IRU secretary general Umberto de Pretto. “TIR is a real game changer for international transport and trade between Europe and China.”

Siebe Alblas, COO of Alblas, the transport company who performed the round trip TIR pilots between China and Europe said he could foresee a great future for road transport between China and Europe.

“The two pilots prove that both directions of the China-Europe road transport route under TIR are ready to become fully operational, with door-to-door costs and delivery times that are highly competitive compared with other modes of transport.”

In September 2018, Kazakhstan and China opened the border crossing at Khorgos to boost transport and trade along the new 8445 km expressway joining Western China to Western Europe.

Today, 76 contracting parties across the globe have ratified the UN TIR Convention. Over 34,000 transport and logistics companies are already using TIR to quickly and reliably move goods across international borders.


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