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Issue 5 2014 - Freight Business Journal

///BENELUX Twente Express at thirty

Midl ands -he adqua r te red Twente Express has been running daily services to and from Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg for the past 30 years. Service options are 24, 48 and 72 hours for groupage and part load shipments – all freight is carried in house using its own secure mega box trailers and low ride tractor fleet – and with its own British or Dutch drivers. While some shippers and

forwarders have opted to use cheaper East European trucks and drivers, Twente Express does not want to compromise its reputation or dilute its strict ‘in house’ controls – a policy that is now paying off in the form of a growing customer base, says the company. Twente Express’s own fleet

based at Brownhills currently consists of 12 trailers, six tractor units for the daily line haul operation and eight distribution vehicles. UK distribution activities are also supported by Twente Express’s membership of

the UPN palletised network with its 65 member depots throughout the UK. The company has recently invested £0.5 million in double deck mega trailers and low ride tractor units. Security is a big priority

for Twente Express, which favours solid box units over curtainsiders and also fits the latest GPS tracking systems and computerised rear door locking mechanisms. In the Netherlands, Enschede

partner Transinfo operates a large fleet of mega box trailers to and from the UK and up to ten trailers are available each day for part and full loads back to the Benelux region. The trailers have a double deck facility, and “as a result our prices are extremely attractive for companies who have high value standard size palletised shipments – especially to the Netherlands,” says Twente Express’s managing director, Trevor Paul. More consignments can be carried on each journey and an attractive new pricing

structure has been introduced in 2014.

In 2007, due to demand

from existing Anglo-Dutch customers, Twente Express set up its own forwarding division to give a global one stop shop. Mr Paul adds: “We certainly do not see ourselves as a general freight forwarder but more an Anglo–Benelux specialist with the expertise and connections to provide additional services around the world whether it be road, air or ocean freight.” Twente Express

has long

standing exclusive partnership agreements in Holland and Belgium to provide distribution services throughout the Benelux, from depots in Dordrecht, Enschede and Brussels. Dordrecht partner, Wisman, is a founder member of


Transmission parcel and pallet network which has 14 member depots throughout Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. Mr Paul adds: “We are currently experiencing a period of

sustained growth – especially on our outbound groupage trailers – in fact we have shipped 39% more consignments this year to date on our export trailers to the Benelux compared to the same period last year. Our trading in 2014 to date is very encouraging as we are well on track to deliver £4m in sales revenues with forecasted pre tax profits in excess of £200,000.” Mr Paul says that there has been an upturn in export revenue in 2014, especially from his Midlands-based manufacturing customers. The extra business has been

won in the face of competition from mainland operators enjoying much lower fuel and labour costs. In fact, Twente Express points out that its premium 24-hour service is a very cost-effective alternative to airfreight or dedicated van services, while far more reliable than handing a valuable shipment to an unknown east European carrier. As

the exclusive Benelux

member for the UPN network, Twente Express

provides a

daily service to all members, for exports and imports. UPN members trunk their Benelux- bound pallets to the UPN hub at Fradley Park on the same trailers as their standard UK pallets. Twente Express collects these shipments daily and delivers them to consignees in Holland and Belgium within 48/72 hours. Mr Paul explains: “We are

currently working with 15 to 20 UPN members on a regular

basis who have customers with Benelux bound freight – but in our experience UK pallet network members


in the main, focused totally on UK distribution and are not prepared to widen their delivery services to include European destinations. With this in mind and in our experience, the traditional freight forwarders and groupage operators are not losing traffic to palletised network members – I think it’s a case of horses for courses.”

Forget Heathrow - London’s third runway is already open

Frankfurt, Paris or London. This, Osinga attributes mainly to the speed, economy and efficiency of its processes and systems – to the extent that many competitor airports now benchmark themselves against the Netherlands gateway. It helps that Schiphol has a cut-

throat handling market, which might make life hard for companies but does ensure that customers get some very attractive rates. The local trucking scene is similarly highly competitive. More than this, there is no

Business is booming again at Schiphol, says senior vice president cargo, Enno Osinga. “Up to last month (May) we’re seeing 7.5% volume growth, right across the board,” he told FBJ in mid-June. The growth has been spread across all regions of the world – Asia and North America especially – and has been in both freighters and bellyhold. That said, growth in freighter

cargo in May, at 11%, comfortably outpaced bellyhold at 5%. The freighter market tends to be more sensitive to the ups and downs

of the world economy than the bellyhold market, so the fact that it is increasing is perhaps a sure sign of permanent economic recovery in much of Europe. “I think it is a sign of optimism, that consumer confidence is coming back,” states Osinga. It is though essentially a

recovery – business is just about getting back to the levels of 2007/08, just before the recession hit.

Schiphol’s cargo growth is

also outpacing other north- west European airports like

shortage of space. The six-runway airport was gearing up to handle ever greater volumes back in 2008 when the recession first hit, and all that extra capacity is still available for business to grow into. Enno Osinga does not expect to reach the limits of Schiphol’s current

capacity until around

2030. Tweaks to the road system and improved truck parking have improved the flow of cargo in and out of the airport which, in Osinga’s view “is as important as new runways or terminals.” Giving forwarders direct airside access has helped too. Another factor that has helped

Schiphol handle more cargo is the move towards full pallet loads in airfreight, which tends to give more efficient space utilisation. But above all,


Schiphol has one of the best IT infrastructures of any airport in Europe. The Smartgate scheme brings together the airport authority, customs and forwarders to reduce the amount of clearance and scanning activity at the airside to a minimum. “For instance, if you can do the scanning at the handling facility at the handling facility (with remote customs control), or at the forwarder’s location or use a mobile scanning service, so goods can arrive at the airside and go.” Any problems can be ironed out before the goods reach the airside, rather than be allowed to create a bottleneck. The Airlink scheme aims to

create an electronic record of all goods arriving by truck at the airport, and drivers are issued with a card that doubles as an access key and also a repository for all the consignment information; details of all the goods on the truck are loaded onto the card. This means that when the truck arrives at the handling agent, the latter

can direct the truck to the most appropriate door, which helps keep things running smoothly and speeds up waiting times. There is a realisation at Schiphol

by everyone in the freight community that investment in systems benefits everyone. At other places, one section of the freight community may be reluctant to make an investment if they do not see a direct benefit themselves. “There is a realisation that we just cannot continue with all this paperwork,” says Osinga. Schiphol’s ambition is to have

40% of shipments paperless by the end of the year. It could also be a catalyst for the wider airfreight industry to get rid of paperwork, one of the International Air Transport Association’s long-held ambitions. One thing that Osinga has

learned about the process is that the whole industry needs to buy in to it. Airlines can realistically only influence the uptake of electronic airwaybills, whereas forwarders and handlers need to consider a whole raſt of other documents. Another requisite for paperless airfreight, he says, “is a good cargo community system, which

fortunately we have in Cargonaut.” The other secret of Schiphol’s

success – though it shouldn’t really be a secret – is that, unlike many other airports in Europe, it still has a dedicated cargo management

with an eight-

strong team of people. “Frankly, you’d be challenged to find the same in many major airports in Europe, although places like Changi, Hong Kong and Delhi do also have cargo teams.” Perhaps it’s no accident that these airports also are recording strong cargo growth figures, well ahead of other comparable European gateways. Enno Osinga finds it hard to

understand why cargo is oſten so neglected in other places. Without a strong cargo product, it is very difficult for even passenger airlines to show a profit. In fact, there seems now to be more awareness of cargo at some smaller airports than at rival major hubs. Not that Enno Osinga is

complaining, if it means more freight business coming Schiphol’s way. While arguments about airport expansion rage across the Channel, Heathrow doesn’t need a third runway, in his view: “It’s already here – in Schiphol.”

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