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Towards more digital freight platforms!

Updated: Nov 11, 2023

The European freight transport landscape has clearly evolved towards a greater adoption of digital freight platforms. In nearly a decade of research, I had been looking at a more one-to-one relationship between third party intermediary platforms (profit oriented) and their respective existing, potential users on the supply and demand side.

The inclusion of rail freight, along with other types of transport modes on such platforms, to achieve higher sustainability has been of special interest to me. There has been a favorable move in this regard, and the visibility of rail-based multimodal/intermodal platforms (various business models, value propositions) appears to be promising!

Level of adoption:

In contrast to the recent years, an overview on the rising trend in the number of platforms entering the freight transport market is practically difficult to maintain. Two questions are of interest:

(i) how many of these platforms are used by a business firm on an average, and

(ii) what types of platforms are they using (value proposition).

The assumption is that participation on such platforms is supposedly (the usage of the word "supposedly" is intentional) voluntary. Based on data collected from chosen third-party intermediaries over the past five months, the analysis reveals that, while using two platforms are now common, some firms (including freight forwarders) are using three or even five platforms.

This post, focuses on a selected number of freight exchanges (also known as booking platforms) and transport management systems (TMS). TMS's integrate exchanges and several other solutions to provide an integrated support to firms on planning, executing and optimizing the physical movements of goods.

The platforms chosen are as follows, their year of establishment ranging between the year 1985 and 2020.

  • modility (2020) and rail-flow (2020), for intermodal transport using rail freight,

  • Timocom (1997), Transroute (1985), and Wtransnet (1996) for road transport,

  • (2017) for air transport, and

  • Freightos (2012) and Transporeon (2011) are currently primarily active in air, ocean, and road transport.

Alpega (owns Transroute and Wtransnet freight exchanges amongst others) and Transporeon are a TMS. In my view rail-flow is a TMS as well. All others are freight exchanges. I'll look into digital freight forwarders in a separate post.

#1. The number of firms that use two or more digital freight platforms is growing.

In the data collected from public sources, examples of firms active in Europe, and others at a global level, were chosen from the websites of these platforms (the collection is not exhaustive). The assumption is that these firms are actively using the platforms for their daily business, and that they may be possibly using other platforms not mentioned (but also mentioned) in the post.

I've briefly indicated the names of the firms along with their business focus. A word of caution here. The repeating names of platforms below does not correlate to their success over other platforms that are cited less frequently. For example, Freightos, here mentioned once, is used by several businesses but also platforms amongst others for the Freightos baltic index.

5 platforms in use

  • rail-flow, moditiliy,, Timocom, Wtransnet: Hellmann worldwide logistics (Airfreight, Seafreight, Road & Rail, and Contract Logistics)

3 platforms in use

  •, Timocom, Wtransnet: Dachser Intelligent Logistics (warehouse, european logistics including air and sea, food transportation), GEFCO/CEVA (Air,ocean, ground, contract logistics), Geodis (worldwide provider of customized transportation, warehousing, global logistics, and supply chain solutions)

  • rail-flow, modility: Duisport (Trimodal Logistic hub and largest Europe's hinterland-hub) and ECL (logistics provider from the baltic sea). Duisport also uses routescanner (container shipping platform)

2 platforms in use

  • Timocom and Teleroute: Fercam (logistics operator using rail and road in Europe) and DB Schenker (integrated transport and worldwide logistics services provider)

  • modility, Wtransnet: Kühne+Nagel (global logistics partner and freight forwarder)

  • Timocom, Transporeon: C. Hartwig Gdynia (international freight forwarding from Poland)

  •, Timocom: Agility (large aviation services provider, logistics parks business), Hermes (international trade and logistics service provider)

  •, Freightos: Qatar Airways (delivers freight to more than 150 key destinations globally), Turkish Cargo (cargo from small packages to perishable products, valuable items)

#2. Multimodal service providers in freight transport and logistics may deploy both, single mode and multimodal platforms.

#3. Importantly, it appears that these firms organize multimodal transport by using a vareity of platforms.

#4. Road transport platforms (those included in a TMS or otherwise) appear to continue playing an important role.

#5. The adoption of several platforms by firms possibly suggests that the value proposition of the platforms is recognized but there is no one size fits for all.

This use of multiple platforms possibly arises in relation to the services they provided for mode(s) of transport (e.g., road alone, intermodal using air and road, or multimodal transport), the platform's geographical or market coverage (Timocom and Teleroute are pan-European, whereas Wtransnet focuses on southern Europe) and the value proposition offered in this relation. Other factors also include the service quaility, response to their changing needs etc.

The data collected focusses only on freight exchanges and TMS's, and does not include the use of digital freight forwarders and private platforms (e.g. those owned by the freight forwarders themselves), nor does it indicate the exact functionalities from platforms that are in use.

The idea is to gain a high level overview on the growing use of freight exchanges and TMS's by firms first. To keep the discussion brief, I have restrained myself from the the discussion on enhancing sustainability through multimodal platforms (see the previous post), a topic that triggered my motivation to start the research on platforms.

Do you have views you would like to add/share on this post? What discussions on freight platforms would you find helpful in this regard? Follow this link to read more about my research work and other articles. More to continue in coming days!

*These are author's personal views. The data collection is based on the public sources available on the internet. The author takes no guarantees for this information.

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