"Cooperation, platforms and economies of scale are clearly emerging developments within the logistics sector"
Interview with Anne-Marie Nelck, policy advisor at Transport & Logistiek Nederland
Simacan regularly invites distinctive people working in logistics and transport to speak to them about their work in this sector. But we would also like to know everything about their background and their vision. More and more women can be found in important positions in transport and logistics. So is Anne-Marie Nelck, policy advisor and submarket secretary at Transport & Logistiek Nederland.
Can you tell us something about your work at Transport & Logistiek Nederland?
My role at TLN is twofold. In part, I am a policy advisor in the field of urban logistics at the national level. In addition, I am market secretary.
We have 16 submarkets at TLN, which are different logistics segments and I am responsible for the submarkets TLN Distribution Transport and Transfrigoroute. Distribution transport is actually all freight transport that goes into the city, from food to parcels to pallets for shops, you name it, both to business and private receivers. With the exception of building materials and waste transport, which are two other TLN sub-markets.
The Transfrigoroute sub-market brings together carriers of conditioned products, such as food and pharmaceuticals. These carriers are active both nationally and internationally, not only in classic road haulage with trucks, but also, for example, combined with rail and inland waterway transport.
Do you have an advisory role towards companies and government?
For the Distribution Transport sub-market I have a lot of contact with governments and related trade associations on the subject of urban logistics. There is currently a great deal going on in that area: zero-emission zones will be in place from 2025 onwards. This poses challenges, such as the availability of zero-emission vehicles and charging infrastructure.
I am in contact with the management of the Distribution Transport sub-market about what is coming our way in terms of legislation and regulations and how that should fit in with practice. But vice versa, I can also indicate to the government what is going on in practice, so that this can be taken into account when formulating new legislation and regulations. In doing so, we go into considerable depth. For me, such a sub-market government is an important sounding board, necessary to find the right match between what is happening in the field of legislation and regulations and what is happening in practice.
Digitisation is of course also very important for both submarkets and other logistics segments. Within the Distribution Transport sub-market we did a pilot project 'Paperless Transport' 4 years ago. I am very pleased to be able to delve a little deeper into the content of this pilot and fortunately this is all possible at TLN.
How did you enter the world of transport and logistics?
That is actually entirely circumstantial. I have been working at TLN for almost 15 years now. Before that, I worked for 10 years for a trade association in the beverage sector: the Dutch soft drinks industry, spirits wholesalers and some smaller organisations were all under one roof. That is where I got to know the phenomenon of sector organisation. A former fellow student and good friend of mine, who worked at TLN a long time ago and was very enthusiastic about it, has ensured that I responded to a vacancy at TLN. At first as secretary for the Cattle Transport sub-market, including the policy domain Food Safety.
Although I knew nothing about cattle, I found it so interesting that I wanted to get my teeth into it. From there, after about five years, I switched to the TLN Distribution sub-market and the theme City Logistics. Conditioned transport was added later on.
Is your working area the Netherlands or is it Europe as well?
Although my field of work is mainly focused on the Netherlands, I naturally also keep an eye on what is happening in Europe and make sure that the necessary lines are laid with 'Brussels'. For example, there is the EU Green Deal. In cooperation with my TLN colleague in Brussels, we recently organised a webinar about this at TLN.
As policy secretary, I have a meeting with the sub-market board 4 to 5 times a year. In addition to topical developments specific to the submarket, this now also concerns topical issues relating to the corona and the subject of sustainability is a permanent item on the agenda.
It is all about good cooperation between the various links within the network. Whenever I see opportunities, as sub-market secretary or policy advisor, I try to bring parties into dialogue with each other. The trick is to make it concrete and that is sometimes a bit tricky. Research institutes also participate in all kinds of projects and programmes and I like to bridge the gap between research and practice. You can fulfil that role as a sector association, because you have a pivotal role between research and sector development and are active in supporting companies.
Which projects are you engaged in within the submarkets?
The Environmental Zones working group is part of the Urban Logistics domain that I'm working on. Environmental zones have existed in our country for a very long time. Now there are 13 zones in 13 cities, for which harmonised regulations have been agreed.
TLN is a member of the Environmental Zones working group, together with related sector organisations and local authorities. There you try to reach agreements that do justice to the objectives that exist within such an environmental zone: improving the air quality in cities and staying within certain standards. In addition, of course, you also want freight transport to remain possible in order to provide residents and entrepreneurs with goods on time. Such a working group is important; all stakeholders can have their say there. You can discuss each other's possibilities and impossibilities.
What is the state of play with regard to zero-emission zones?
A great deal is already being done, but a great deal still needs to be done before the zero-emission zones are in place from 1 January 2025. Cities are getting fuller and fuller, the available space is decreasing, but at the same time you can see all kinds of technical developments that make zero-emission transport possible. We also need clarity about the size of future zero-emission zones, so that hauliers, shippers and vehicle manufacturers know the volumes involved and can adapt their business models accordingly. Through the TLN communication colleagues we will inform the TLN members about all these developments.
The climate agreement states that 30 to 40 Dutch cities must have zero-emission zones by 2025. Some cities have already taken steps and I expect some of them to publish their plans in the near future.
In the sustainability vision published by TLN in 2017, one of the pillars is zero-emission urban logistics. In it, TLN calls for clarity on this subject and for a harmonised policy. Agreements have now been made about which vehicles are permitted in the zero-emission zones, but also about the transitional periods for clean trucks and the cleanest type of delivery vans. It is important that the cities come up with their views on the implementation of the emission zones in the short term and on the size of the areas that need to be supplied with zero-emissions. Then you will know what volumes of goods enter these areas and what vehicles you need to bring those volumes into and out of the city.
Does chain optimisation play an important role in this?
Yes, and then you end up in the Simacan field: standardisation, also in links. Thanks to my involvement in the 'Paperless transport' project, I know how difficult it is to achieve this standardisation. What you see in the Simacan Control Tower is that Ahold develops it together with the carriers and takes it further. These are inspiring examples.
Collaboration, platforms and economies of scale are emerging developments and I also see room for all kinds of small players, subcontractors and niches. The corona crisis has proven that we can switch much faster than we think.
Every now and then, we have to have guts and just do what we can. Do not want to take the step only when it is perfect, because then you do not take that step. Because it is never perfect and you really have to keep moving, criticism also helps you to move forward. That is very important for the future-proofing of companies and organisations.
What do you find most interesting about the sector, and about your role in it?
The fact that I am at the intersection of all kinds of things, I see both the practice among the members and the political and social reality that governments have to implement. The technical and scientific developments are also extremely interesting. As far as urban logistics is concerned: everyone can imagine, it's close to a lot of people, which makes this subject a lot of fun.
I also look with great interest at the developments at companies. Logistics is definitely not about moving boxes, people really think about concepts: logistic processes, cost efficiency, how do they deal with their people, how can the technology be used? Developments are tumbling over one another, that whole playing field is extremely dynamic. I can also see that in the expert groups in which I participate.
Are there any more women in leading positions at TLN?
I think the male-female ratio at TLN is about fifty-fifty, in cross-section of all jobs. In fact, women at TLN are well represented at all levels of the organisation, including in pivotal and top positions, and Elisabeth Post has been our chairman since last year.
There has been a movement in the male-female distribution throughout the sector, as in positions such as truck driver and order picker. In office positions in the logistics sector, the number of women is also increasing.
As far as you are concerned, what would be the future ideal for the Transport & Logistics sector?
People often complain about the number of trucks and vans on the road. The reason they drive there, and also in your neighbourhood, is because we all consume and order things. I would very much like that stigma to disappear somewhat, but I also realise that it will remain a utopia.
In concrete terms, what is very important is that account is taken of space for logistics, both in physical space (such as loading and unloading bays in the city centre), and in thinking about future plans when designing cities and industrial areas, their accessibility.
What is certainly also important is space for digitisation of logistics, such as with the help of Smart Cities. Is sufficient data already being shared with logistics, and is sufficient consideration being given to the possibilities that logistics already offer and will offer in the future? That is crucial if we are to continue to get our stuff where we need it in the future, especially as we start to consume more and more.