On 25 October 2017, the European Commission launched a public consultation on electronic documents for freight carriage.

Information and communication technologies are widely recognised as key enablers for the development of the EU economy.

Consignment notes, waybills, bills of lading are documents central to freight transport operations and constitute the contract of carriage between senders and transporters for a defined set of goods. Moving from paper to electronic format for these documents offers a large potential to improve the efficiency and reliability of freight transport operations; however, this opportunity is not fully seized in the entire transport chain, as not all stakeholders accept electronic documents that, as a consequence, need to be accompanied by their paper version.

The Commission has recognised the need for measures fostering the acceptance and use of electronic transport documents in a number of policy-setting documents, such as the White Paper of 2011 entitled “Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system” (COM/2011/0144 final), the Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe (COM(2015) 192 final) and the EU eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020 (COM(2016) 179 final).

However, in the transport sector, and particularly in freight transport, this potential remains yet to be fully unlocked. With this consultation, the Commission aims at obtaining information from all the stakeholders on:

  • the reasons why transport documents in electronic format are not as yet more widely used;
  • the scope of the missed potential benefits;
  • the possible measures to support the wide use of electronic transport documents among all transport and logistics stakeholders;
  • the expected impacts of these measures.

The consultation will end on 18 January 2018.