These are tough times for finished vehicle carriers, but Daimler gave some cause to celebrate during its annual European Carrier Day, where around 100 transport companies gathered in Düsseldorf as the carmaker announced awards for its best carriers for passenger and commercial vehicles.
The Günther Möhlmann company won for passenger cars, followed by Akkermann Tranport and Helf Automobil-Logistik, respectively. For commercial vehicles, Helf was the winner, followed by Galliker Transport and Koopman Logistics Group, respectively. These companies  were selected following an audit of transport damage, lead-time, vehicle loading and the age and condition of the carrier fleets.
Presentations and discussions held during the two-day event were dominated by concerns about the impact of the recession. Plant managers from European plants announced that their facilities will take extended production breaks of up to four weeks for the Christmas and New Year period, a necessary measure but one that will not only reduce volumes for carriers but also disrupt balanced flows as those carrying vehicles from ports will be forced to return empty.
Egon Christ, Head of Vehicle Transport Logistics (pictured), admitted that 2009 would be a challenging year, but told carriers that the carmaker would also be a reliable partner in the future. Daimler has recently revised its contract policy so that fuel costs are now a variable factor for land and sea transport rather than a fixed rate, and will be reviewed regularly, removing the risk for carriers should fuel rise again. Christ also suggested that some volume might be shifted off the rail onto road to give carriers more business.
But the best way to cope with the downturn would be through process improvements and innovations, he said.
In surveys carried out during the event, 58 per cent of carriers said that they had already or would reduce capacity to cope with the downturn. Daimler logistics manager Thomas Banholzer suggested the problem will continue next year, citing a Daimler analysis that predicts truck and storage capacity will rise even in the early months of 2009, as old orders are delivered.
To cope with an earlier capacity crunch, in 2007 Daimler began issuing regular 10-day, monthly and annual volume forecasts. "These forecasts will be even more important in a downsizing phase to align plant outputs and required capacities," Christ said.
However Banholzer revealed that carriers had not yet integrated the forecasts into their internal processes. An internal Daimler survey found that while carriers believed the forecasts to be around 68 per cent accurate, audits showed that monthly forecasts were 94 per cent accurate and 10-day forecasts were 88 per cent accurate. Also, only 42 per cent of carriers responded within three days to the forecast to confirm that they had available capacity. Banholzer stressed that this figure needed improvement
“Just as we give information to carriers, they have to give it to us so that we can keep the supply chain transparent,” Banholzer told Automotive Logistics.