International express carriers gear up for increased road delivery after Polish EU entry
International express carriers will shift a large portion of their business from air to road delivery once Poland joins the European Union (EU), lifting customs clearance for goods destined for EU member countries and sharply reducing waiting times at the Polish-German border, industry sources said.
“A significant volume of shipments within Europe will move from air to road,” said Miros³aw Gral, international manager of Messenger Service Stolica, a Warsaw-based courier that works with the global network of U.S.-based Airborne Express.
Today, a TNT Express Worldwide truck traveling from the international carrier’s hub in Holland spends an average of seven hours at the Polish-German border, according to Robert Mianowski, the company’s general director in Poland. But after border restrictions are lifted, road delivery time could be cut to two days from as many as four, he said.
“Once the customs clearance problem is solved after EU accession, the only factors left will be road speed and handling time at terminals,” said Aleksander Morozowski, general director of Warsaw-based Servisco, which is 60% owned by the German national postal operator Deutsche Post.
The shift toward road transport will also attract new customers for express deliveries, Mianowski said.
“Customers will no longer need to pay for costly air transport if the same shipment can be guaranteed at half the price but a day longer,” he said. “We’ve seen this development in other countries that joined the European Union.”
Another obstacle facing Poland’s air-transport industry is Warsaw’s Okêcie Airport, Gral said. “Most road carriers have their own terminals and cargo is handled in an instant, while the handling time at Warsaw’s airport is officially four hours and sometimes longer,” he said.
Air shipment is more expensive than road delivery due to costly airport handling and lengthy customs procedures, Gral said. “As a result, air shipment within Europe is hardly attractive in terms of price,” he said.
A Warsaw-Paris express air delivery costing some z³. 700 is more than double the ground rate of z³. 200-z³. 300, according to Gral. “If the difference in delivery time shrinks to just one day, the customer will begin to rethink his orders,” he added.
While industry professionals expect the international express-delivery market to grow steadily in the coming years, they see a much brighter future for road transport than air delivery. “Road transport will slow the development of air transport,” Mianowski said, adding that while 90% of express deliveries are conducted by air, that figure will drop to 50% in a few years.
Road shipment is particularly expected to develop in Poland’s Western territories, said Jacek Przyby³owski, marketing director of UPS Polska, the local unit of the global carrier. “A parcel picked up in Poznañ first has to be brought to Warsaw because the customs agency is there,” Przyby³owski said. “When the border to Germany opens, freight from Szczecin, Wroc³aw or Poznañ can be carried directly to our network in Germany.”
Gral projected that the road-express segment would expand by 25-30% annually after Poland’s economy recovers, while the air express market would grow by 10-15% a year.
Ian Cummings, general director of DHL International Poland, estimated that the air segment would grow by 15-20% annually despite the shift toward road transport. He cited Poland’s poor road infrastructure as an obstacle to dynamic growth in the road segment.
“Even if Poland joins the European Union, the road infrastructure in Poland will still limit the speed of road delivery,” Cummings said.