After two years dominated by Corona restrictions, the Russian invasion of Ukraine also left its mark on the logistics sector in 2022.
AdBlue – the rare commodity
Rapidly soaring gas prices forced the fertiliser industry, which produces AdBlue as a by-product, to curtail its production. Virtually no trucks operate today, however, without the urea solution. According to the German Freight Transport Association, the AdBlue consumption of diesel trucks on German roads is around five million litres per day.
One of the largest German producers of nitrogen fertilisers and AdBlue – SKW Stickstoffwerke Piesteritz in Saxony-Anhalt – temporarily stopped its AdBlue production completely. The facilities have been running again since early September. The issue of gas prices and hence the problems in AdBlue supply are far from off the table however – even if the situation has eased in the meantime.
Logistics companies also had to contend with rising fuel costs. Compared to October 2021, diesel cost almost 40 per cent more on average in October of the current year. The discount on fuel did indeed make a difference, but in the case of diesel fuel, which is taxed at a lower rate than petrol, the cost relief for the haulage companies was only noticeable to a lesser extent.
Transport demand remains as high as ever
However, the higher price had hardly any impact on diesel sales. Overall, fuel demand in the first nine months of the current year hardly differed from the previous year. The reason is simple: the demand for road transport is as high as ever. This is clearly apparent from the truck toll mileage index, which the Federal Office for Goods Transport and the Federal Statistical Office compile on a monthly basis. The index has been moving at a similarly high level after the first Corona shock since November 2020, with slight fluctuations.
The growing shortage of drivers is all the more pressing for the industry. The topic was addressed once again during the public hearing of the Transport Committee on 26th September 2022. According to the Federal Association of Road Haulage, Logistics and Waste Disposal and the Federal Association of German Bus and Coach Operators, Germany has a shortage of about 60,000 to 80,000 professional drivers. The situation is further complicated by the fact that one third of the active drivers are older than 55 and will therefore soon retire.
Change in drive systems
Regardless of these challenges, logistics companies will need to invest significantly in future drive systems in the coming years. This entails significant cost increases for the industry. The difficulty: up to now, it has not been clear which horse to back: battery-powered vehicles, hydrogen, liquid natural gas (LNG), e-fuels, HVO?
What is more, hauliers have just been dealt another blow: whereas just a few years ago the Federal Government was luring transport and haulage companies with subsidies to buy LNG trucks, these vehicles can currently no longer be operated economically because the price of LNG has gone through the roof in 2022.
It will be interesting to see what the year 2023 has in store for the logistics industry. At any rate, a number of important issues are still awaiting resolution. There is unlikely to be any respite.