Keep on trucking

A group of European commercial vehicle manufacturers has called on the European Union (EU) to take immediate industry action to promote economic recovery.

At a three-day International Transport Forum event, the vehicle manufacturers outlined plans to improve industry prospects. These included investment in an infrastructure for the future, restoring access to financing, the implementation of a regulatory framework and stimulating vehicle fleet renewal.

Leif Östling, chief executive of Scania and chairman of the ACEA commercial vehicle manufacturers’ board, said: ‘This is not a normal cycle; we are experiencing the sharpest downturn ever. Governments must act to prevent the failing of viable businesses, and they must do so in a coordinated way.

The economic crisis has caused a significant decline in transport activity and subsequent drop in demand for commercial vehicles. Order intake for heavy trucks stalled at 10,000 in the first quarter of 2009, compared to 100,000 a year ago. Manufacturers are now expecting commercial vehicle production to at least halve this year.

According to Östling, governments must take the lead in restoring the functioning of the financial system. ‘The lack of credit is a particular problem in our industry. We have many customers that could show a valid business case for investing in new vehicles but are unable to finance these investments due to the overall lack of credit facilities.’

Östling added: ‘Progress towards sustainable mobility requires a thriving industry. In the current extraordinary economic and financial situation, however, the relative cost of the regulatory burden on our industry increases. This is an issue that must be addressed. The legislative framework should be carefully scrutinised.

‘Furthermore, there are many infrastructural and construction projects planned for the future that could be launched right now. Investments in sustainable mobility, energy and telecommunications networks will stimulate the economy in a focused way.’