|Eco-restructuring: Implications for Sustainable Development (UNU, 1998, 417 p.)|
|Part II: Restructuring sectors and the sectoral balance of the economy|
|11. The restructuring of transport, logistics, trade, and industrial space use|
The most important spatial-economic outcomes of these developments and their implications for transport have been:
- increasing geographical specialization and concentration in production,
- growing separation of points in value-adding chains,
- increasing distance between points of production and points of consumption,
- internationalization of economic activities and of transport, growing transport volumes,
- increasing average haulage distances, shifts to faster modes.
In terms of the transport implications, the most significant effect has been rapid growth in the volume of truck-kilometres. In 1993, the OECD truck fleet travelled a total of 1,823 billion kilometres. This represents a 68 per cent increase over the 1980 kilometrage. Truck movements on important international corridor routes such as the Rhine and Danube valleys and through sensitive Alpine passes have become particularly problematic.
Part of the overall growth in truck-kilometres is attributable to increases in average haulage length. Within the KU, the average haulage length of goods (all commodities) transported by road grew by more than 20 per cent in the 10 years to 1990. Some of the growth has also come from mode shifts. Competition favours the use of flexible, direct, and fast modes of transport. Truck and air have gained relative to slower and less direct modes. Rail, in particular, has lost out. Not only is the rail share of total tonne-kilometrage reducing, but rail has experienced absolute reductions in freight-tonne kilometres. Studies of German freight transport have shown that the threshold of substitution between slower modes and truck occurs at value densities of little more than DM 1-2/kg. Truck dominates the value range from this to the DM 100/kg level (all figures in 1987 DM), which encompasses most consumer products including autos and domestic electrical (white) goods. Above DM 100/kg, air freight becomes dominant (Gr1988).
International trade has grown consistently and has outpaced the growth in real world product. No EU country now imports less than 30 per cent of its total GNP.
Competition and profit-maximizing behaviours have been the critical driving force behind these impacts. Together, these have constituted a powerful imperative to cut costs, expand market presence, and respond quickly to demand.
Evidence is rife of bizarre transportation consequences (Whitelegg 1994). Freight transport surveys have shown that, to take advantage of cost differences between countries, some products are shipped long distances in the process of adding value, ultimately only to arrive back at their point of origin. Prawns landed in Hamburg and destined to be sold in the German market have been found in transport to and from Poland, where they are cooked and peeled. Most West European household pot plants, wherever grown, are sold at auctions held in the Netherlands from where they are trucked to final market, sometimes even to places where they were originally grown. In both these cases, it is the same (not just an equivalent) product that is being transported in both directions. Even low value-density commodities and products have to be transported into foreign markets at risk of their producers losing overall market share. At the high value density end of the market, there are even more questionable, but apparently profitable and cost-effective, goods movements. An example is the case of the Cadillac Allante. The car body is manufactured in Italy. But the car is assembled and sold in the United States. The body is transported over 5,000 km by air from Turin to Detroit (Grand Nowotny 1990).
There is evidence that transport intensities at the national level (measured as tonne-kilometres per unit GNP) may now have peaked in some OECD countries and even have begun to decline. This is the result of higher average specific values (value/kg) of cargo and is likely to reflect changes in the structure of economic activity within countries - including the offloading of environmentally damaging aspects of production to other countries. It is unlikely, therefore, to be a reliable indicator of shifts to or away from transport dependence. Time-series of product-specific transport intensities would be better indicators but these are not routinely calculated. In an exceptional (and exemplary) study aimed at establishing transport intensity at the product level, Bhas used lifecycle methods to trace all the inputs used in the manufacture of a single pot of strawberry yoghurt emanating from a production plant in southern Germany (B1993, 1995).
The study includes all inputs involved in the manufacture of the product and its packaging; e.g. strawberries, sugar, milk, glass containers, cardboard and paper labels, and aluminium container lids. The transport requirement associated with producing the inputs, bringing these to the production plant in southern Germany, and distributing the final product to consumers is summarized over the life cycle on a unit product basis. Bexpresses the transport intensity in terms that enable it to be considered - and possibly listed like any other "ingredient" on the label of the product. Each 150g strawberry yoghurt was found to have required the equivalent of more than 9 metres of truck movement. Every tonne of yoghurt sold accounts for more than 600 truck-kilometres. In respect to overall sales of yoghurt - a seemingly simple, healthy, and "natural" product marketed in massive quantities - the implied daily, weekly, or annual transport requirement is enormous. Production from the single plant studied, which serves mostly local markets, gives rise to 24,000 truck-kilometres annually.