The contentious issue of vehicle trailer lengths for road transport in China may be resolved at the beginning of July when new safety laws are introduced by the Ministry of Transport. However, restrictions on capacity defined in the new guidelines, which propose a regulation length of 16.5 metres for a single trailer, could see efficiency compromised and pricing for road transport suddenly escalate, something OEMs and LSPs are keen to avoid as competition in China intensifies.
The cost of logistics in China is still nearly double the ratio seen in Europe or North America at nearly 17% of GDP, with road transport continuing to carry the greater portion of the country’s automotive freight – 86% according to the Chinese Federation of Logistics and Purchasing (CFLP).
Speaking at last week’s Automotive Logistics China conference in Shanghai, He Liming, chairman of the CFLP, said that one of the biggest problems facing vehicle logistics in the country was overloading of trailers during transport.
The proposed solution, however, includes a six-vehicle limit per trailer that many see as wholly impractical. Double trailers are also facing restrictions of a 22-metre length standard, down by three metres from those currently used. Dr Chen Gang, vice general manager at Beijing Changjiu Logistics (pictured), estimated that the loss in available truck capacity would be 30%. “That would shut down the industry overnight,” he said.
Violations of the proposed regulations were likely to wipe out operator profit, according to Dr Chen, with a RMB 30,000 ($4,600) fine cited for transgression of the rules along with driver licensing revoked.
Chen said the government should recognise a 10-vehicle trailer as cargo cannot be shifted to other modes in the short term. China is targeting the development of rail and short-sea alternatives over its next Five Year Plan phase but capacity here will not be in place to meet the immediate shortage the new road restrictions threaten.
A transition period is likely, though no exact time was given, and change is not likely to happen over night given the number of government departments involved.
According to Ma Zengrong, vice secretary of CALA at the CFLP, a 20-metre trailer is more practicable but such a recommendation has many bureaucratic hurdles to vault. Ma said that the CFLP has been busy setting up meetings with the Ministry of Transport and would act as a bridge between carmakers and the government.
"We are confident that the necessary changes will be made, but we need to go through a high number of ministries even to adjust one small number," said Ma.
More detail from last week’s conference is available here (