Road freight turnover collapsed by 48% during March and 44% in April, with a 27% decline in May, with many firms also highlighting downward price pressures in June.
France’s road freight operators are making a timid recovery from COVID-19 and there are fears that the industry will remain in a fragile state for some time to come, according to a survey conducted last week by the country’s leading trade federation, the Fédération Nationale des Transports Routiers (FNTR).
While haulage firms report a significant improvement in activity compared to the months in lockdown, it remains well below the levels before the health crisis. On average, they lost 40% of their turnover during March (-48%), April (-44%) and May (-27%), the survey found.
“Moreover, this recovery has no positive effect on margins, since the crisis poses specific problems, particularly in terms of additional costs, with prices moving downwards. Indeed, between the increase in ‘empty kilometres’, disrupted flows, lower prices, loading difficulties, negative indexing of diesel fuel and the direct and indirect costs associated with COVID-19, transporters fear a lasting weakening of the sector,” it underlined.
Freight price pressures in June
In addition, one-third of the firms surveyed have seen a drop in road freight prices in June, compared to 28% in May, mainly due to overcapacity. Many haulage companies also highlighted downward price pressures exerted by customers. Requests for rate decreases of 5% are the most common but in some cases these amount to more than 15% or even 20%.
Looking ahead, 55% of company bosses believe their workforce will remain stable over the next three months, with 32% anticipating a reduction in staff numbers. They also expressed growing concern about replacing and recruiting employees
The survey also noted that the impact of COVID-19 in the road haulage sector has differed markedly depending on the type of goods.
Transport related to the automotive vertical continues to be the most affected with 76% of companies still in partial shutdown, followed by dangerous goods and industrial goods.
Only 36% of firms expressed confidence in the outlook for the sector compared to 33% last month, the FNTR survey concluded.