Europe is comprised of more than 40 countries, and 27 are members of the European Union (EU) post-Brexit. Although the geographic footprint of the EU is less than half that of the United States, what the EU lacks in square footage it more than makes up for in diversity. Consider: the EU’s population is 50% larger than that of the United States and speaks 23 different languages. And though the EU has somewhat standardized the economics, trade, and politics of its member countries, when it comes to parcel shipping, the landscape is anything but standard. Parcel shippers are still faced with different regulations, infrastructure, rating methods, and carrier networks from one country to the next, and these differences create a significant amount of logistics complexity.
Here are four key elements to consider when shipping parcels in Europe.
1. Fragmented Parcel Shipping Carrier Market
Despite many mergers, the European carrier market is still populated by a number of small country- and region-specific carriers. And even when a large carrier is the result of multiple acquisitions, it’s commonplace for the domestic country network to continue to operate as it did prior to the acquisition. As a result, a shipper may contract with a “single carrier,” but navigate the complexity of multiple carrier entities to actually execute shipments – complying with multiple label, documentation, and tracking number formats and integrating with multiple systems for electronic exchange.
As a result of regulations in each individual country, shippers in Europe are usually required to produce additional documentation and reporting. While shippers can transport goods (in free circulation) with minimal documentation (a Delivery Note or Packing List), shipments leaving the EU must be reported to customs electronically. Unlike the United States, where shippers use a single Automated Export System, also known as AES, many EU member states use unique e-customs systems and reporting. Furthermore, shipments must have paperwork to travel, which can not only differ by country of export and country of import, but also by the countries through which the goods pass while en route to the final destination. Thus, if a shipper is leveraging a multi-carrier parcel management system to execute shipments, the system must have strong cross-border label and documentation capabilities.
3. Carrier Rating Differences between European Countries
There are myriad rate calculation methods European carriers can use. Unlike the United States, there isn’t a uniform postal code system across Europe, and therefore rate-zone definitions differ by country, carrier, and service. These rate zones may even be a combination of country postal codes, regions, cities, etc. Furthermore, although approximately 75% of European freight is transported by road, there are no European-wide tariff structures. Therefore, rating is done on a per-carrier basis, typically based on zones, weight, volume, and distance, but also accounting for factors such as load meters and pack quantity. These variables, in conjunction with different currencies, further complicate rating and rate shopping.
Shippers must ensure their supply chain technology stack accounts for Internationalization (known as I18N), defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) as:
“Internationalization is the design and development of a product, application, or document content that enables easy localization for target audiences that vary in culture, region, or language.”
If a shipper is leveraging technology to execute parcel shipments, the user interface, documentation output, and external integrations need to be localized:
- Number, date, and time formats
- Units of measure
Complicating matters further: the technology must be able to share and present information among different parties in their preferred format and language.
Manage Cross-Border Shipping with a Cloud Multi-Carrier Parcel Management System
In summary, shippers moving parcels across borders in Europe should consider using a cloud multi-carrier parcel management system to ensure they can simplify the complexity of carrier connectivity, label and documentation requirements, regulations, and rating.
To learn more about how Logistyx TME can provide the necessary flexibility to successfully execute cross-border parcel shipping, contact an expert today.