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Paperless freight forwarding: pipe dream or tangible reality?

How digital process control of international transport succeeds

The good old days of free truck drivers following their nose and the next deal - gone forever? In view of legal regulations with extensive bureaucratic requirements, the answer had to be "yes" for a long time. Until - yes, until – of all things, digitalisation reclaimed the space for intuition. Because modern transport processes can be controlled digitally and beat the paper war. So paperless freight forwarding is becoming possible – whether out of romantic motives or in the name of efficiency.

It could be so simple in logistics: load up, get in the truck and drive off. Maybe towards the sun. That's how the TV series "Auf Achse" (On the Road) showed it in the 1980s and shaped the image of a modern cowboy driving towards freedom in his truck. Three decades later, European unification, deregulation and bureaucratic control of fair competition have not left much of this image. Anyone who runs a haulage company today must have almost mastered the art of administration and docutmentation requirements, at least if they want to earn money. So there are no more student jobs at the wheel of a truck – the professional driver qualification sends its regards and the school of life has moved on to social media. So it seems almost consistent when digitalisation, of all things, turns back the clock a little and frees truck drivers from paperwork. At least when they are on the road with large loads over long distances, as Franz Meersdonk and Günter Willers once did in the early evening blockbuster. Because it works paperless again in the freight forwarding business – a bit romantic, but above all efficient.


Paperless freight forwarding beats carbon copies

Driving to distant countries with full loads and only getting a return load en route: road transports have not worked this uncomplicatedly for many years. Rightly so, because a lot of data is now collected and documented for road safety, economic and social control, which has produced an extensive paper system with the consignment note at its centre. Circumstances that have prevented new loads from being taken on too spontaneously. At the same time, for the issuing of invoices, forwarding companies depend on the quick and complete transmission of documents such as the delivery receipt, which usually only returned to the company with the truck. With the use of mobile apps for transport control, these framework conditions have gradually changed. The introduction of the digital consignment note (eCMR) as a permissible transport document also in Germany has recently made it possible to use trucks completely paperless again – with digital documentation. The following information is provided and archived via this:

  • • client
  • • loading point
  • • loading list
  • • recipient and destination

In the interest of process efficiency and resource conservation, European legislators have officially authorised digital accompanying documents. Thus, the implementation via mobile apps is also formally completely sufficient for the control of cargo traffic, moreover, by itself always in the right language.

Reducing bureaucracy

How paperless freight forwarding benefits from lean processes

Assign tours, receive delivery receipts, invoice sales quantities of loose goods and provide delivery notes digitally: Paperless work with mobile apps has significantly accelerated the exchange of information in freight forwarding companies. With the provision of real-time data via digital platforms and interfaces, customer service has also been significantly relieved of status queries. Digital solutions close the last gaps in coordination with the electronic consignment note and accompanying process documentation. Via the applications, freight forwarders automatically register all border crossings as well as the time spent in the respective countries. They also record the working hours of their drivers without any additional effort. This means that all information relevant to accounting – both for customers and for the human resources department regarding driver wages and social contributions – is automatically available. The freight forwarder can therefore rely on an automatic digital process to meet the requirements of the Supply Chain Act regarding payments to employees as well as the associated documentation. An important plus for the unbureaucratic control of companies from the logistics sector.


More autonomy despite meticulous documentation

Knowing without checking: Digitalisation with mobile apps gives freight forwarders real-time information about their cargo transports from the truck directly to the office, without having to be in permanent contact with the driver. Almost like in the days before mobile telephony. With the difference that the haulage company can also support its drivers via the applications and even send them new orders without distracting the driver from his tasks on the road. A digital driver's manual with tips for known loading points or order-related notes on customer requirements make it possible. In addition, the software has taken over all previously form-based documentation tasks. The open space in the truck has thus been restored – with significantly higher process efficiency. Modern and at the same time a little romantic.


Paperless freight forwarding as a model for efficiency

Admittedly: Transporting full loads rarely becomes a challenge for freight forwarders if the cargo does not want to be handled too specially. Nevertheless, paperless freight forwarders can serve as a role model for their whole sector. This is because they are already exploiting the advantages of digitalisation and thus achieve a particularly lean organisation with high process efficiency. They work so effectively without paper that the lowered bureaucracy in the truck opens up new space for a return to romance. Beautiful and surprising news.

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