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Corona crisis

Setback for the transport industry?

Car manufacturers are taking a break from vehicle production, suppliers are putting their employees on short-time working, logistics companies are facing extreme challenges and bus companies are sounding the alarm. The corona crisis has long since reached the mobility and logistics sector. But there are also positive effects to be seen.

In many areas, there are signs of a significant decline in the volume of transport – passenger transport in particular is being hit hard (Photo: istock.com)
In many areas, there are signs of a significant decline in the volume of transport – passenger transport in particular is being hit hard (Photo: istock.com)

Coronavirus is an unprecedented challenge for society and the economy. Many industries and markets are being hit hard and the corona crisis has also had dramatic effects on the mobility and logistics industry: Whether in production or in logistics, whether small or large, whether on the road, rail or in the air – companies are facing extreme challenges.

Supply chains continue to function

Transport researchers from the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) have investigated the effects of the COVID-19 virus on the logistics sector in a short survey. ‘One positive aspect is that all supply chains can currently be maintained and no sector has been identified as having a logistics bottleneck’, summarises Prof. Gernot Liedtke, head of department for commercial trade. In the food sector, transport volumes have risen by about 20 per cent compared to normal seasonal levels. And online trade is also increasing in the food, pharmaceuticals and electronics sectors, as the German E-Commerce and Distance Selling Trade Association (bevh) reports. This is also shown by the example of Amazon. The retail giant is hiring 100,000 new employees in warehousing and delivery in the USA alone, and has created 350 new jobs in Germany.

However, beyond food transport and certain e-commerce sectors, there are signs of a significant decline in transport volumes in many areas. Passenger transport is particularly hard hit, as an example from Hong Kong shows. ‘Many of our companies have been significantly affected’, announced the MTR Corporation, which operates several services including the Hong Kong metro, in a statement in early March 2020. Based on preliminary estimates, the financial loss from the impact of the COVID 19 outbreak and the consequences of Hong Kong’s restrictions on the public during the first two months of 2020 amounted to approximately 1.3 billion Hong Kong dollars, equivalent to more than 150 million euros, on the net profit of the Group’s operations.

Economic setbacks

The American company National Railroad Passenger Corporation, which operates a large part of the long-distance rail passenger transport within the USA under the brand name Amtrak is losing around 3.4 million journeys and estimated ticket revenues of 606 million US dollars between Washington D.C. and New York alone due to the closure of the line until the end of May.

Bus companies are also particularly affected by the economic impact of the coronavirus. Thomas Strier is managing director of the SME travel company Strier Reisen in Ibbenbüren, North Rhine-Westphalia. The company owns 12 coaches, employs 26 people and offers international coach tours. ‘We have come to a complete stop because of the government measures. We had to put employees on short-time working and are looking for alternative employment for them’, says Thomas Strier. And can only hope that the driving ban will soon be lifted and people will want to catch up on their travels after all the time spent at home.

Positive effects in times of crisis

But there are also positive effects, as the DLR survey shows. In Germany, for example, the national logistics networks remain stable, service providers involved in urban delivery traffic are happy about the traffic-free roads, and logistics companies and the retail sector are approaching each other in a flexible and cooperative spirit that would have been unthinkable even before the crisis.

In addition, many companies are actively responding to the new situation. The industry is moving closer together and finding new and more flexible delivery concepts and logistics solutions. Leading representatives of rail freight transport, including Deutsche Bahn, the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) and the Network of European Railways (NEE), for example, have drawn up a joint charter committing themselves to increased cooperation in order to secure supplies by rail. And solidarity across sectors is also evident: Daimler and VW, for example, are donating respiratory masks to hospitals and doctors’ surgeries.

Other companies are also converting production lines and offering products or services that lie outside their core business. The Baden-based travel company Löble Reisen now offers a delivery service for people who cannot leave their homes for safety reasons, electric car pioneer Tesla wants to manufacture ventilators, and both ZF Friedrichshafen and the Bavarian automotive supplier Zettl, which normally manufactures products such as seat covers or door panels for vehicle interiors, are producing respiratory masks. Unusual alliances are becoming common. The automotive supplier MAHLE, one of the world’s largest producers of pistons, cylinders and valve controls, has, for example, joined forces with the underwear manufacturer Triumph to produce respiratory masks for intensive care with an FFP3-compatible filter medium that traps viruses.

Part of th text is based on research by asmag.com.  

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  • Transport & Logistics

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