By David Collett
Business needs stability and there is a lot of political and economic uncertainty in the air. Having said that, I am cautiously optimistic about prospects for 2017, and I think that goes for many of ESTA’s members. My gut feeling is that the market is steady.
Talking to my colleagues across Europe, the infrastructure, power generation, construction and rail sectors are looking buoyant, as is the wind energy sector – although from a UK perspective I think the wind market is softening.
The one major proviso is that increased security and border controls – necessary as they may be – can create bureaucracy, restrict the movement of goods and people, and have an impact on the time taken to do a job. Also, some of my colleagues have been expressing concern about the lack of project finance from the banks.
Into 2018, I think the market will strengthen further as more major projects come to fruition and the construction and housing markets expand.
As for the oil and gas markets, they remain a major cause for concern. There looks to be a lot of scheduled maintenance work coming through, but upstream work is in real difficulty.
There is also huge pressure on rates across the board, driven by overcapacity and fierce competition. Rates that are too low restrict the industry’s ability to train and invest – which in turns affects our long-term efficiency and productivity.
I don’t see the situation changing in the short term, although we might see some limited market consolidation. A real concern will be if we see costs such as wages and fuel prices rising, against a backdrop of stagnating rates.
There is no doubt that the technological developments that are driving huge changes in all industries will have a major impact on heavy-lifting and transport. The only questions are how and when.
Personally, I think the heavy transport industry will be a late adopter of major developments such as autonomous vehicles, in part because every job we do is different. We are not going on a regular route from factory to warehouse, for example. Also, safety concerns will mean we are going to be cautious about being at the cutting edge of new developments.
Having said that, we see incremental advances all the time – especially in telematics – leading to improved servicing, maintenance, fuel monitoring, emissions and so on. In 2017, we will see continued incremental developments – but we will be watching other sectors carefully to see what lesson there may be for ESTA and its members.
David Collett is Managing Director at Collett Group and President of European Association For Abnormal Road Transport And Mobile Cranes (ESTA). Click here to go back to the intro page.
Lead photo via Shutterstock; edited by Catherine Dorrough.
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