Road transport body sees 800 bln euros in losses amid coronavirus

GENEVA, March 31 (Reuters) - A global road transport body said on Tuesday it expects the sector to suffer losses of at least 800 billion euros ($880 billion) over the next year due to falling global trade amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Freight movements by road are already down about 30-40%, said Umberto de Pretto, Secretary General of the International Road Transport Union (IRU), and have been exacerbated by what he called “nonsensical” border restrictions. Coach tourism has been decimated, he said.

“Looking just at the road transport sector globally, we believe this could have an impact of, and this is a very conservative figure, of 800 billion euros,” de Pretto told journalists in a virtual briefing from Geneva.

“You can double that if it continues for longer than you expect,” he said, adding that the projection would be bigger if the pandemic continues beyond April. He said Europe and Asia were so far the worst affected regions.

Unlike the maritime and aviation sectors, there is no intergovernmental body for road transportation. The Geneva-based IRU represents 166 members from road transport operators in over 80 countries including Sweden’s Volvo and German coach operator FlixBus. It upholds the interests of its members and seeks to facilitate trade.

De Pretto said that red tape at borders was holding up supplies of food products and medicine, complaining that drivers and cargo had been forced into quarantine in recent weeks.

“Every border has a different procedure and you can’t do business this way. You can’t keep trade flowing this way,” he said.

He called for “green lanes” that would allow drivers through and said he had written to U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres as well as EU and Turkish authorities among others to call for better coordination. ($1 = 0.9093 euros) (Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Giles Elgood)