Why road transport needs data governance

This article is part of our special report The nexus between data and transport. Data is power. In the world of road transport, where vehicles and companies generate huge amounts of data, who holds this power?

With no legal framework to regulate the use of business-to-business (B2B) data at the EU level, the question remains unanswered.  Raluca Marian is General Delegate of the Permanent Delegation to the European Union, the International Road Transport Union (IRU). As the main generators of data in the sector, transport operators are concerned by the lack of regulation and transparency.

Where does the data their vehicles produce go? How is it used and by whom? Can they access their own data?

Uncertainty makes transport operators hesitant to share data with other businesses. This growing issue was put on the agenda of EU decision-makers during the IRU EU Conference in October.  Recently, the EU has renewed its commitment to boosting its digital strategy.

It has identified digitalisation as one of the main levers to restart the European economy post-COVID-19. But how does it plan to make data sharing a reality for all businesses?  Trust is the cornerstone of data sharing in a successful digital economy.

This can only be established through equal opportunities.  IRU has identified three key principles to guarantee data fairness.  Adopt an EU legal framework for the provision of business-to-business data 

The framework should explicitly include the principles for the voluntary sharing of data and reciprocity when it comes to access to data, clearly define the obligations and responsibilities of data aggregators and recognise the rights of data generators.  Provide financial incentives to operators  Over 80% of transport operators carrying goods and passengers in the EU are small and medium-sized  enterprises (SMEs), with between one and 10 vehicles per operator.

Upgrading to digital tools and staff training requires significant investments, for which businesses need government support.  Compensate transport operators for sharing their data  The future framework on data must also ensure that transport operators are able to ask for and receive financial remuneration in exchange for the data provided.

Unless the benefits of data sharing are clear to transport operators, they should not be expected to hand over their data for free in a market that is estimated at EUR 1 trillion, or roughly 8% of the combined GDP of the EU-27. 

Road transport digitalisation has the potential to bring many benefits to companies, consumers and society.

But only if done right. 

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