Jan de Rijk: Trucking Important for the Air Cargo Chain

This is the first of a series of articles on road transport (RFS) companies and their history, way forward and plans for the future. This week we start with Amsterdam-based Jan de Rijk.

Dedicated air cargo trucking is directly impacted by the ups and downs of the market, says Sebastiaan Scholte. He has been CEO since 2010 of one of Europe’s largest truck companies, Jan de Rijk Logistics.

An AN-124 freighter can easily accommodate an entire truck – courtesy JdR
An AN-124 freighter can easily accommodate an entire truck – courtesy JdR

In these hectic times when carriers are moving services from one airport to another, the future must look very bright for a road feeder services provider. “Not so much when these moves happen overnight,” says Sebastiaan. “What is important for us is that the business remains well balanced. If we have a lot of volume on the outgoing trip we like to have some trucking from that airport or neighbouring airports on the return leg. It is a question of assets utilisation, yield and load factor, in fact the same KPI’s as an airline’s.”

Omnipresent in Europe
According to Seabury, new business models like e-commerce have led to a reduction in shipment weight, so one can wonder in what way this has an impact on RFS as well. According to Sebastiaan Scholte it is not only the e-commerce shipments that have brought the weight down, but also the fact that the products bought on the consumer market are getting smaller than they used to be. “In that respect, you do not necessarily need a freighter to ship them, they will fit perfectly into a passenger plane belly. The impact on our business is negligible, as some 70% of our business is LTL (less than truck load) anyway.”
Jan de Rijk’s group headquarters are in Roosendaal, in the southern part of the Netherlands close to the border with Belgium and on the main axis between the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp and the airports of Brussels and Amsterdam. As for the air cargo RFS segment, the group is omnipresent, Sebastiaan points out. “Our main operation is in Schiphol, but we have a presence all over Europe, from the Ukraine to Ireland and from Norway to Gibraltar. Of course, our real concentration is in the so-called ‘blue banana’, which comprises the airports of Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Brussels, Liege, Munich, Milan, London etc.”
The air cargo business is extremely volatile and a trucking company must no doubt be able to follow to keep track. Only a few years ago carriers like Emirates and Etihad only offered a few destinations, now they offer and sell point-to-point passenger services all over Europe. “That leads to more trucking to airports that did not have an important cargo business in the past, like Dusseldorf, to name but one.” On the other hand, when the market is improving, carriers will prefer to sell these point-to-point destinations, reducing the need for trucking. In contrast, “a downturn will force them to sell any destination in their network from any origin, which increases the need for trucking services,” the manager states.

Driving force behind the IATA Pharma CEIV
Mergers and collaboration agreements may also have an impact on the RFS business, especially if the carriers involved cooperate with different providers. In this respect, Sebastiaan takes a more moderate view. “It depends if you make trucking part of a code-sharing agreement. Speaking from my own experience, I must say that in the end everybody still sells their own shop. A so-called ‘one roof policy’ looks very well on paper, but the day-to-day reality is different.”
Jan de Rijk was part of the first group of companies to endorse the IATA PHARMA CEIV policy of Brussels Airport. According to Sebastiaan the company has always taken an active part in the introduction of fitting standards. ”We actively push and steer these kinds of trends.”
Before he took over as chairman of TIACA, Sebastiaan chaired the Cool Chain Association (CCA). This organisation originated in Cargolux, the company where Sebastiaan was responsible for marketing and special projects before joining Jan de Rijk. “As CCA we have managed to talk Des Vertannes into the importance of this business and I must say that Brussels Airport has taken it up very successfully. Therefore, we joined immediately. These sort of commodities keep on rising and that goes for perishables as well,” he concludes.

Marcel Schoeters in Brussels

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