Five scenarios for Freight and Logistics in 2040 Philippe Duong
Five scenarios for Freight and Logistics in 2040
Philippe Duong (Samarcande) and Michel Savy (Université Paris-Est-Créteil)
The world situation is very uncertain: the crisis opened in 2008 is certainly not over, beyond short
term financial starts, and reaches all dimensions of society. This crisis is financial, but also economic,
social and environmental. Considering the great unpredictability of perspectives and the concern of
citizens and of economic actors, the need for long range studies is stronger than ever, so as to throw
light upon the future, particularly upon exchange economics, i.e. a key activity of the last half century
(the one of the "Glorious Thirty Years") and of the present globalisation period.
The need for futurology is crucial for transport and logistics, particularly for infrastructure, the core of
public planning, which has a very long life. A heavy investment like a railway line, considered to-day
and constructed in 2025, will be in service till the end of the century. This need is also crucial for
economic operators, more and more imbedded in global exchanges and dependent on the transport
and logistics system, even if they manage their business in the most flexible possible way.
Following the project presented in 2008 (entitled « Prospective fret 2030 ») the current research aims
at proposing various scenarios, taking into account the situation following the economic crisis opened
in 2008, but ignoring "nightmare scenarios" such as a global crisis escaping any control, a major
epidemic, a climate accident, a world war, etc. These occurrences cannot be entirely discarded but
cannot give birth to realistic assumptions, given their stochastic character and their very unpredictable
These scenarios consider that the transport system is relatively inert, particularly due to the heaviness
of its infrastructure component, but is not frozen on the long range and rather plastic in the short
range as it undergoes in an amplified way macroeconomic fluctuations.
Goods transport: which breakdowns?
The transport system is at the centre of major social choices and a main element of sustainable
development. As shown on the diagram below, the answers to transport challenges do not entirely lie
inside the transport system, but result from a systemic approach.
Il n’y a pas de prospective
Sphère de la
Système de transport
Risques de rupture
One must look for current breakdowns and for foreseeable ones in the organisation of economy, of
geography, of society and in the way of life as much as in technology. Technology obviously evolves
very fast, especially in the information realm, but does not change radically the ways of carrying and
handling goods. The crisis unveils new stakes and new contradictions that address globalisation,
production models and methods of public action.
Crossing topics and variables
Several topics appear as essential for a long range analysis. They are the basis for scenarios and allow
us to feed the various transport system prospective visions we shall elaborate. These topics (7) are
crossed with variables (also 7) that represent the different terms of public action and of human
choices, were they social, strategic or political, and that decisively determine the system evolution.
These variables are addressed according to contrasted assumptions.
The crossing of topics and of variables provides a matrix, the actual "research engine" of our
approach. The boxes of the matrix are gathered into coherent packs, according to general common
hypotheses, that supply us with the material for scenarios.
7 topics :
Ways of consumption
Climate, green house effect
7 variables :
- Economic actors' strategy for raw materials
Global economic strategies
Public policies and financial capacity
Sustainable development policies
t des techno et
des trafics ;
trafics routiers ;
corridors ; flux
route ; modes
corridors et ports;
masse et flux
tendus ; besoins
peu de besoins
de GES ;
Pas de besoins
GES ; inversion
de mutualiser les
livraisons) et les
+ grande part des
stocks ; + de
délais ; besoin
main d'œuvre ;
et des activités
agricoles et de
de masse ;
produits ; poids
croissant de la
inégalités accès à
Sud et Ouest
très sollicitées ;
des trafics ;
des coûts de
es régionaux ;
tropismes S et
Pénurie MO ;
Baisse de la
Construction of scenarios
The future of transport strongly depends on social choices and the production of long range scenarios
for transport and logistics requires addressing three key issues that will determine the type of society
likely to occur:
The nature of growth
The role of public action and of collective voluntarism
We therefore propose six hypothesis of social choice, resulting from the crossing of two types of
Collective policy choices
The six hypothesis are the framework for contrasted scenarios, considering the exchange system in
coming years. The definition of scenarios crosses two series of variables:
Transport use intensity
Use values resulting from the transport system
Continuation of the
Continuation of current
Shocks and chaos
Growth, ecology, public
Extension of the
5 scenarios are then elaborated:
"Asymmetrical globalisation", corresponding to the continuation of the pre-crisis model
"Business as usual", corresponding to the continuation of current trends
"New golden years", corresponding to the hypothesis of growth, ecology and public action
"Sustainable development", corresponding to the extension of the "Grenelle agreement" (the
result of negotiations between French employers' associations, employees' unions,
nongovernmental organisations, local authorities and State authorities supporting sustainable
development policies, in 2007 and 2008)
"Decline", corresponding to a chosen decrease of production and consumption.
Plus de transport, dégradation des conditions de vie
Transport Plus de transport, progression des conditions de vie
Fil de l’eau
Moins de transport, révolution des conditions vie
Plafonnement du transport, stagnation des conditions de vie
Valeurs d’usage +
Moins de transport, mutation des conditions de vie
Scenario 1: asymmetrical globalisation
This scenario considers the continuation of the trends in force previously to the crisis, relying on
globalisation, the pursuit of the international division of labour, a strong growth in emergent countries
and a noticeable growth in ancient industrial countries relying on services, particularly financial
services. This requires more free market mechanisms and less public intervention. New margins are
made available considering energy and natural resources, due to technological progress.
International logistics is in quick change, particularly imports into Europe where manufacturing
industry goes on declining. The economy is consumption oriented, with massive flows of commodities
managed "just in time", and major logistics service providers as well as biggest retailers play a leading
Gateways, world main ports, trunk corridors and major metropolitan areas (together with urban
sprawl and spatial segregation) are the key components of transport and logistics geography. In this
system, one notices a vigorous growth of traffic, with a prevailing share for road haulage (92 % of
total inland transport), except on main corridors which concentrate consolidated traffics and suffer
from congestion. Outside of these corridors, railways are in marginal position and inland waterway
does not grow much.
Technology makes particular progress to speed up productivity and improve energy efficiency of road
transport. On the opposite, this scenario induces but limited results for sustainable development and
the volume of green house gas augments.
This scenario corresponds to an uneven and unsustainable model of development, with little energy
and raw materials savings.
Hypothèse de trafic
Scénario 1 à 2030
TC % Gtkm PM %
Scenario 2: business as usual
The business as usual scenario does imply the continuation of the current evolution (e.g., it
encompasses the trend for energy prices increase, requiring adequate response), but it maintains the
same general rationale. European growth is slow and strongly constrained by demographic limits.
Economy goes on with its specialisation trend toward services, high tech and luxury manufacturing,
whereas imports provide goods produced by traditional industries. Transport growth slows down (the
elasticity coefficient in relationship with GDP is smaller than 1).
Hypothèse de trafic
Scénario 2 à 2030
TC % Gtkm PM %
concentration on international corridors goes on, in relationship with international trade and
growth. The role of maritime ports is more important, for the service of their hinterland that
opportunities for non-road transport solutions. Still, rail still declines and inland waterway
only a slow progress.
Urbanisation continues and income and consumption economics (as opposed to production
economics) can be locally predominant, increasing the importance of urban logistics.
Concerning transport policy, market mechanisms remain the rule, even if public policies are successful
when dealing with external effects (pollution, road insecurity). The issue of green house gas emissions
Scenario 3: new golden years
This scenario represents a growth model choice relying on intensive investment in collective services
and "green technology", supported by a strong public involvement. It goes back to the French "30
Golden Years" model, the one of the intense growth period between 1945 and 1975, and updates it.
It results in a strong manufacturing industries growth, due to a voluntary public policy, in the
framework a globalised environment. France is active in worldwide economy, particularly in system
industries and network industries, therefore strengthening major groups but also boosting national
small and medium business.
Public intervention manifests itself through important borrowing and the overhaul of the fiscal system,
through investments in key industries considered as a lever for growth, together with a social progress
Apparently, sustainable development targets remain the core of the strategy, but the respect of
existing production and consumption models does not allow a radical shift concerning green house
Logistics receives a new impulse, together with national industry, particularly for exports and for the
consolidation of traffic on main corridors. Those are adequate for a multimodal service, including rail
and inland waterway. Railway transport benefits from a complete renewal of its supply and waterway
from the network unification, due to massive investment. Road remains the dominant mode (about 75
% of traffic) but bears heavy use-tolls.
Hypothèse de trafic
Scénario 3 à 2030
TC % Gtkm PM %
Territory evolves according to a relatively well balanced metropolitan scheme, with a renewal of
regional manufacturing, even in areas previously affected by off-shoring. Gateways, particularly
harbour regions, are strongly concerned with this dynamics.
This scenario relies on green tech expansion, that in the same time fosters energy efficiency, non road
transport modes and sustainable logistics organisation and limits green house gas emission, although
rapid economic growth tempers these effects.
Scenario 4: sustainable development
All actors, including shippers, undertake transport sustainability improvement. All means, be they
technical, organisational, legal or fiscal, are combined in this intention, but without any radical
Evolution of life styles, spare of raw materials, repair, short circuits and recycling, together with
corresponding logistics, intensely develop, but the general framework remains the globalisation of
economy, in spite of mitigating policies followed in many countries.
Secondary ports emerge beside main ones for intra-European short sea shipping, together with a
growth of inland waterway traffic, the setting up of a new railway freight transport model, the
progress of road haulage efficiency (which remains essential).
Hypothèse de trafic
Scénario 4 à 2030
TC % Gtkm PM %
In this context, an efficient European logistics is necessary, considering the new industrialisation of
territory and of economy, stronger proximity economy and local cooperative practices, linked with
main harbours and worldwide economy.
In large metropolitan areas, a sophisticated urban logistics system is set up, following the Japanese
example. Substantial progress is made in terms of transport sustainability, but the long range prospect
is to divide green house gas emissions by two (a "factor 2"), a factor 4 seeming out of reach
concerning transport activities and more demanding efforts being therefore devoted to other sectors.
Scenario 5: decline
The decline scenario is a radical breakdown with the current model, which shows itself in the end of
consumerism and of mass production and in a strong trend toward de-globalisation, together with a
more even distribution of wealth. The result is a GNP decrease (the very concept of which is
challenged as a proper index of development), particularly of its material goods production
In fact, a new type of civilisation aims at lowering the human footprint, particularly at lowering energy
and materials consumption and at a general implementation of recycling and of collective practices.
Concerning production, this model insists on proximity relationships, shortened circuits, it supports
local productive systems relying on diversified and rational manufacturing. In the same time, the
dramatic decline of goods production results in a decline of exchange, and namely of international
trade, together with the look for self-dependency and protectionism.
Considering regions, one can expect a decline of population, a certain urban areas decline and a rural
areas renewal, resulting in a more even population distribution. Considering governance, the
consequence is the decrease of central authorities, especially at national and European levels, and a
strong decline of infrastructure investment, the use of which no longer affords a high maintenance
Hypothèse de trafic
Scénario 5 à 2030
TC % Gtkm PM %
Indeed, transport demand diminishes, both in terms of volume and of distance, non-road modes are
chosen for long distance haulage (the global volume of which decreases) and road transport remains
dominant for local traffic. Main harbours operate smaller traffic whereas inland waterway, including
traditional small gauge links, expands. Technology progress does not strongly impact the transport
system, except for information technology.
Generally speaking, logistics is more local, but exogenous imported products are managed in a
centralised logistics organisation, around main warehouses located in main cities and in regional
Synthesis of scenarios
Finally, scenarios result in following key issues:
the "asymmetrical globalisation" scenario is little acceptable, particularly according to recent
public policies criteria (sustainable development), even at short term, as it is highly resource
the "business as usual" scenario is soft, without breakdowns, and does not solve any of the
main problems to-day considered.
the "new golden years" scenario is a neo-Keynesian one, relying on reflationary measures and
sustainable development new opportunities, even if it is not likely to reach the "factor 4"
target. It depends on its socioeconomic environment, and contributes to change it. Its realism
and its dependency on public authorities' financial resource are an open issue.
the "sustainable development" scenario corresponds to the French policy program called
"Grenelle agreement for environment", radically implemented according to its rationale. But if
one knows the recipe, one is not sure to be able to apply it and to overcome its underlying
the "decline scenario" cannot be eagerly accepted by people, given it implies a drastic way of
life shift. It can hardly be implemented without a civilisation shock, which could happen, for
example, after an economic or political upheaval.
Finally, these five scenarios provide us with a contrasted picture of possible futures, but they do not
provide us with a comprehensive solution, and do not solve all problems. Some of them cannot be
accepted, but correspond to the current situation; others seem more attractive but face constraints
one can hardly bypass or require an anachronistic voluntarism; others again would be hardly accepted
by many people, considering the change in the way of life they postulate.
New Golden Years
Business as usual
Main scenarios stakes
All five scenarios raise important issues. Some of them are converging and reveal unavoidable stakes,
according to different intensities. Others are divergent, contradictory or even antagonistic.
Natural and energetic resource always are on the agenda, considering the shortage situation
all scenarios will lead to in the short or long range
- Demography is a major variable that cannot be neglected
- Climate receives a different importance in various scenarios, but is a key problem for all of
them in the long term
- Demand satisfaction is a central component of the system, whether it is organised by the
market or relies on a human needs based conception.
- Cooperation is an optimisation tool for transport and logistics, whatever the goals.
- In all cases, road haulage will remain the dominant transport mode.
- Inland waterway, a cheap and efficient mode of transport, can be operated on big canals or
small traditional ones according to different scenarios.
- Maritime ports (big or small) play a central role in the transport system.
- Logistics outsourcing will probably be a stable trend, considering the necessary
professionalization of the business.
- Technological progress, different from one scenario to another, is in all cases a key variable,
particularly Information technology.
- Grouping logistics premises in freight villages seems necessary to optimise its spatial
- Main corridors will attract a major part of traffic, for road transport or for other modes
according to scenarios.
- Life style is a key issue, but quite different from a scenario to another
- Production organisation can either repeat current rationale or propose new ones.
- Social progress is a central target in some scenarios, whereas it is strongly damaged in other
- State and public policies are a major divergence factor, as they are a crucial element of some
scenarios and have a reduced importance in others.
- Europe also receives a different role in various scenarios, as it can have a minimal influence or
play an active and dynamic part.
- Transport policies, reduced to a minimum or intense and dynamic, voluntary or giving way to
market mechanisms, receive a variable importance.
- Regulation and taxation range from a very low level (asymmetrical globalisation) to a radical
high level (sustainable development).
- Infrastructure receives heavy investments but also disinvestments.
- Modal shift is quite different in various scenarios, weak for two of them and substantial for the
- The difference is particularly strong for railway, ranging from mere marginalisation to doubling
its share of traffic.
None of the five scenarios will entirely occur; intermediate or hybrid paths will be taken into
consideration. Some scenarios can hardly be accepted and are little likely to happen, and the
"business as usual" scenario does not clearly address necessary social choices; the "new golden years"
and "sustainable development" are more substantial and more innovative, they are closer to present
ambition considering sustainable development, broadly shared by the public opinion. Several
proposals are therefore put forward for public decision makers.
Strengthen cooperation for transport and logistics operation, particularly on a local level.
Disseminate logistics competence in small business and local firms.
Support local logistics providers' emergence.
Upgrade transport and logistics jobs social conditions.
Use logistics as a lever for manufacturing development, with global logistics solutions.
Optimise and develop cross section approach of logistics chains.
Logistics and territory:
Grouping logistics premises in freight villages: optimise logistics sites location, avoid logistics
sprawl, and link these sites with non-road transport means and support consolidation of
Promote cross roads and multimodal network nodes, so as to disseminate logistics in regions.
Set up location contracts so as to diminish unnecessary inland transport.
Consider urban logistics as a key element of logistics organisation.
Control of green gas emissions through taxation of road usage.
Support a long range vision and a capacity for organisation at national level, to coordinate
more numerous actors.
Give public priority to infrastructure financing.
Better understanding and knowledge of logistics and transport demand.
Implement an actual policy for maritime harbours, beyond infrastructure issues, and make
ports a key element for intermodal transport.
Develop inland waterway as a mode of the future, connect present basins and reconsider the
use of small gauge canals.
Support a real railway revolution, relying on a completely new concept, universal, efficient and
linked with the supply chain of firms and of regions.
Considering road transport will remain dominant, apply all possible technological and
organisational progress to it, develop cooperation, and increase productivity on lines where
non-road modes are not efficient.
At European level, address the obvious contradiction between the competition policy, entirely
of EU competence, and social and fiscal policies, that belong to member States. The single
market cannot work in an harmonious way without a trend towards social and fiscal
convergence. Currently, the French road haulage companies have been entirely expelled from
the international transport market, due to salary and to tax dumping, and liberalisation of
cabotage is likely to augment this biased competition. This trend does not allow the
emergence of a highly qualified logistics industry which modern economics require.
At national level, France cannot do without a strategy and without a logistics and transport
project, considering the corresponding stakes for the entire economy and society. A
comprehensive logistics strategy must be implemented, in relationship with an industrial policy
and an export policy, including harbours, railway, inland waterway as well as a master plan
for freight villages.
At regional level, one must enhance public intervention, organise the reception of logistics
activities, coordinate logistics physical planning according to the accessibility of non-road
transport modes, elaborate a national master plan for logistics.
Scenarios are not a prediction. They are a means to approach possible futures, likely to provide
decision makers, be they public or private, with elements likely to help them. Let us hope the present
exercise reaches this ambition.