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DAC at Transport Logistic 2023: Road Transport Is Efficient, Rail Can Be More Competitive Thanks to DAC

DAC at Transport Logistic 2023: Road Transport Is Efficient, Rail Can Be More Competitive Thanks to DAC
photo: DAC4EU/DAC at Transport Logistic 2023: Road Transport Is Efficient, Rail Can Be More Competitive Thanks to DAC
18 / 05 / 2023

The Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC) project group of Europe's Rail entity held a seminar on the future effects of DAC for transport customers at the international trade fair transport logistics in Munich. It invited Thorsten Bieker, BASF's Vice President of Logistics, Arcelor's Head of Multimodal Arnauld Desmonts, IKEA's Global Logistics Director Sara Udvari and VTG Senior Advisor Matthias Knüppling to discuss.

T. Bieker (BASF) said that DAC represents the biggest railway revolution in the last 100 years. Positive aspects of DAC that the company has evaluated: heavier trains, better use of train and infrastructure capacity, movement of staff, safety at marshalling yards and, with some reservations, possible savings in operational logistics costs. However, he also mentioned the risk elements of the introduction of DAC, consisting of several uncertainties: the need to reserve more transport and infrastructure capacity for a transition period that no one knows how long it will last, which is associated with unclear costs; the threat to the positive for individual carloads, especially in Germany; and the higher price of DAC wagons, which will necessarily be reflected in the cost of rail transport. The biggest danger is the "over-engineering" that is mercilessly destroying the business case in the industry. On the future of single carloads, he said their main threat is the long transition (migration) from standard couplers to DAC. In general, there is already a shortage of sidings in Germany and Europe, and it is threatening to be exacerbated by reserving capacity for the transition to DAC. BASF is also specifically looking at the regulatory aspect of the new technology, as it specifically orders the transport of hazardous materials.

A. Desmont (Arcelor) said that the concern uses largely complete trains where the benefit of the new DAC technology is not so marked. They see the benefit of digitalization and associated management and optimization of transport. He expects that there will be complete data control over the DAC cars so that the company can increase transport productivity and make better use of capacity. Like BASF, it advocated for the fastest possible transition period to DAC but also called for the best solution for the entire rail sector.

M. Knüppling (VTG) said that his company, with 90,000 railcars, sees DAC as part of a major system change in rail transport, which consists of full digitalization. He advocated considering "opportunity costs", i.e. the costs we would need to incur nationally and Europe-wide if we abandoned digitalization and DAC. The growth of rail transport and its competitiveness with other transport modes is based on individual car shipments. Conversely, as the energy sector is transformed, the transport of energy raw materials will decline. Over the many years of flip-flopping on whether to DAC or not, road transport has made huge strides in efficiency. VTG, he said, prefers the most efficient solution, which is never the most complicated.
S. Udvari (IKEA) said that IKEA transports other types of goods but considers rail transport as an integral part of its ESG corporate profile. A 50% reduction in the company-wide CO2 emissions level will only be possible if subcontractors and transport contractors participate. Globally, Ikea wants to motivate its transporters to move from road to rail. To do this, the company needs transport reliability, rail competitiveness and digitalization. It lamented that Ikea's manufacturing plants and retail outlets are often not accessed by rail infrastructure.