Road transport, interconnecting every business to every major world market all along the ancient Silk Road

Today, as a result of globalisation and the advent of sea container transport, 80% of world trade today is carried out through some 30 increasingly saturated ports, entailing bottlenecks, delays and ultimately higher costs all along the supply chain to the end consumer. These dynamics have led to the desertification of trade not only in ports’ hinterlands but also in all landlocked countries, impeding their economic development, thus often creating political and social tensions.

However, no country is landlocked to road transport!

Two-thirds of the world’s population lives in Asia, working, producing and trading with the rest of the world – mostly through maritime transport. Only road transport, however, thanks to the high quality of its unique, flexible door-to-door services, is capable of interconnecting all the businesses located across the Eurasian landmass to the main world markets.

Therefore, reopening the ancient Silk Road to trade by road transport not only offers an alternative for the transport of goods from Asia to Europe and vice versa, but, above all, drives economic and social development, political stability and, ultimately, progress and prosperity in all countries along the 12,000-50,000 kilometres of the various itineraries of the Silk Road.

In line with the UN Millennium development goals as well as the Almaty Programme of Action and true to its commitment to achieve sustainable development, the IRU has been focusing its efforts and resources on reopening the ancient Silk Road, in order to help all the businesses located along these routes to produce and to trade between one another and with the rest of the world, hence creating jobs, boosting GDP growth and increasing prosperity.

Reopening the Silk Road does not imply 15,000 km journeys for a single truck. The purpose is, above all, to interconnect all businesses involved in a production chain through door-to-door road transport services, on short to medium distances.

But the possibility of an end-to-end journey, like an electrical wire, is essential to permit the development of trade and the interconnection of all businesses involved in a production chain. While these common goals are within reach, they can only be achieved if political priority is given to removing the numerous barriers to road transport.

The study on “Land transport options between Europe and Asia” published by the US Chamber of Commerce in 2006 demonstrates the feasibility of such transport operations and also showed that such new road transport activities can still be dramatically improved, if we pull down the obstacles along the Silk Road resulting mainly from inappropriate procedures rather than a lack of infrastructure as is commonly believed.

The challenges are numerous, however, so are the new opportunities brought about by facilitating relations among trading partners and integrating the various economies to those of other regions.

IRU pilot truck caravans to reopen the Silk Road

Brussels -Beijing Caravan

Beijing-Brussels Caravan

The Beijing-Brussels Caravan by road started in Beijing on 27 September 2004 at the IRU Euro-Asian Road Transport Conference and arrived in Brussels on 17 October 2004. Initiated by KAZATO, the IRU member association in Kazakhstan, and supported by governments, international institutions as well as road transport associations, the aim of the Beijing-Brussels Caravan project was to demonstrate that road transport is an effective means of shipping cargo by land between Europe and the countries of the Asia-Pacific region.


Black Sea Ring Highway Caravan

The Black Sea Ring Highway Caravan

The Black Sea Ring Highway Caravan started its journey of some 7,500 km from Belgrade to Istanbul, through the 12 BSEC Member States around the Black Sea Basin in April 2007. This public-private initiative aimed to facilitate road transport around the Black Sea basin and to further connect national economies of the BSEC region by collecting valuable data en route with respect o non-physical barriers to road transport in the BSEC region and to road infrastructure around the Black Sea Basin, while transporting goods between the BSEC countries as well as promoting the BSEC Black Sea Ring Highway project to the BSEC people


NELTI - New Euroasian Land Transport Initiative

IRU’s New Euroasian Land Transport Initiative (NELTI)

As Transport Ministers of Eurasian countries increasingly recognised the need to facilitate road transport as the key to enhance economic and social development of their countries, the New Eurasian Land Transport Initiative (NELTI) was an essential next step in the IRU strategy of interconnecting businesses in Asia and Europe along the Eurasian landmass as well as increasing public and business awareness of the huge opportunities created by this land bridge.

Supported by national Governments and international organisations such as the UN regional commissions (UNECE, UNESCAP), CIS, EurAsEC, GUAM, NELTI was launched in September 2008 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, to showcase the potential of Eurasian land transport for commercial deliveries and demonstrate that the Silk Road is now fully operational and open for business.

In June 2009, NELTI has entered its second phase  in partnership with the Asian Development Bank, by developing a road map to reduce the time and cost of road haulage in transit countries between China and Europe.