Since January Christian Labrot is the new President of the IRU (International Road Union). In an interview with DHL Freight Connections he talks about the new direction of the world association – and introduces the new corporate image of the IRU.
The IRU is now presenting itself with a new logo and new claim. And you took over as President at the beginning of January. A case of “new president, new IRU”?
Form follows function – and the IRU is realigning itself. Globalization and digitization have created new basic conditions. We are adapting to them through our new alignment. “We help the world get where it needs to be” really sums it up: We see ourselves as a global organization for mobility. Goods and commodities are today exchanged and traded worldwide. Only as a global player can the IRU bundle the interests of the industry around the world and represent them in a targeted manner. But the realignment and thus also the relaunch of the external image are not alone on my account. The IRU team already initiated them under my predecessor. And this is a path that we will now continue to pursue.
What exactly does that mean?
Our member associations and their companies are increasingly globally active. Therefore we have to grow geographically. Our goal is to make transport on the road throughout the world as easy as possible. And we have already been rather successful in doing so. Pakistan signed the TIR Convention last year, China is on the verge of signing it and we are also in negotiations with the United Arab Emirates. For our members, this provides considerable relief. The entire customs clearance can proceed a lot easier and faster. At some borders there are already special TIR lanes, where trucks are processed in half an hour. Facilitating such cross-border transport generally provides a win-win situation. It creates new markets, new business structures, new jobs – in short: positive welfare effects for both sides. Another example is education and training. The IRU Academy can provide important development work in less developed countries and establish standards there that will help all to benefit from functional logistics. The IRU Academy is currently responsible for training programmes for the transport sector in Jordan. An important market in the Middle East.
What other advantages can the IRU offer its members?
As is the case in all networks: The more people join in, the more expertise, exchange and profit for all. Therefore, the IRU also has an office in New York in addition to its headquarters in Geneva. Not because the city is so beautiful, but because that’s where the UN, many other UN agencies and the World Bank are located. We are in a constant dialogue with these institutions, and can specifically represent the interests of our industry right there.
At least in Europe, transport by road is beginning to suffer from a poor image. What can the IRU do here?
The bad image of long-distance road haulage is a paradox. A smartphone, for example, consists of hundreds of components that come from different parts of the world. However, consumers have no idea about the complex routes that are required to produce such a device. Take e-commerce for example: We are talking about same-day deliveries here. Only ten years ago it took weeks before a catalogue order was delivered. This permanent availability and just-in-time is possible only with elaborate and highly efficient logistics chains. Without transport by road, it just wouldn’t work. That is why we, the IRU, have also focused on improving the industry’s image. We want to raise public awareness about how extremely important logistics are for our economic growth and thus for our welfare. To do so we need to become more visible. That is why in 2017 we relaunch the IRU World Congress after nine years.