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eFTI: the new European regulation on the dematerialization of transport documents

Reading time:
5 minutes
eFTI: the new European regulation on the dematerialization of transport documents

eFTI: the new European regulation on the dematerialization of transport documents

Reading time:
5 minutes
eFTI: the new European regulation on the dematerialization of transport documents

The eFTI (Electronic Freight Transport Information) regulation was published on July 15, 2020 and will be fully implemented from August 2024. It aims to make the logistics sector more competitive by obliging member states to accept freight-related information in digital format .

Less than 1% of freight transport operations in the EU are entirely paperless. With this in mind, the European Commission decided to introduce eFTI.

The eFTI regulation: on the road to digitizing customs transport documents!

The eFTI regulation is a set of rules and standards designed to facilitate and secure the electronic exchange of documents relating to the transport of goods (delivery note, packing list, documents relating to a particular type of goods, etc.). While there was no legal framework or European standard for companies in the transport market in terms of electronic data exchange, the publication of the eFTI clearly demonstrated the European Union's desire to digitize and harmonize document practices on a European scale. The aim is to make digital format the majority format, given that today over 90% of transport documents are in paper format (source: ecologie.gouv.fr)...

A real turning point for the transport market, from 2024 eFTI will enable logistics operators to present their freight documents digitally, from their phone or computer. The framework applies to road, rail, sea and air activities.

What are the advantages of eFTI?

The European Commission set up the eFTI for several reasons. By creating a uniform legal and technical framework, the regulation lays the foundations for a new, fully digitized ecosystem that should be adapted by the majority of supply chain players in the years to come.

Digitizing the transport market

Initially, the aim is to address the low level of acceptance of electronic documents and information in international trade. By requiring EU member states to accept goods-related information in digital format, the eFTI seeks to promote the adoption of electronic invoicing and the digitization of documentation, focusing on its security, reliability and efficiency. 

The new regulations applicable from 2024 therefore aim to strengthen the use of digital technologies to meet regulatory requirements within the EU, reduce the administrative burden and increase digitization in freight transport and logistics.

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Improving logistics interoperability

A variety of IT solutions are currently in use in Europe for the exchange of freight information. Nevertheless, the incompatibility of these solutions often leads drivers to prefer paper documents, a costly and time-consuming process. Through the eFTI platforms, administrative procedures will be facilitated, thanks to the adoption of a common system, as well as common standards and practices throughout Europe. 

Reducing the sector's ecological impact

The introduction of EFTI is helping to limit the use of paper. Transport is the only sector in the EU where GHG emissions have increased since 1990. By promoting the exchange of electronic documents, the government aims to reduce paper consumption, which has advantages in terms of preserving the environment. It is estimated that the application of eFTI will reduce the industry's CO2 emissions by 1,300 tonnes over 20 years, while avoiding the felling of between 180,000 and 900,000 trees per year.

Massive savings

The digitization of goods-related information should contribute to considerable savings, not least thanks to the reduction in administrative procedures. Member States are expecting benefits of over €25 billion for the various economic players on the market. 

eFTI platforms

In order to dematerialize transport documents as part of B2A (Business-to-Business) exchanges for goods data, eFTI platforms will be - and are in the process of being - introduced. Their aim is to facilitate electronic exchanges between different countries, based on a single ecosystem. These private platforms will be certified by national authorities and will be required to provide supply chain players with a transport data model and a harmonized interface. 

All modes of transport, as well as modal shift, are concerned by the use of these platforms. Only maritime transport will not be supported. These tools will have to provide a number of functionalities to make regulatory data processing simpler. Here is a non-exhaustive list: 

  • RGPD compliance
  • Confidentiality of commercial data
  • Competent authorities have the right to access and process data. 
  • Operators must be able to provide the authorities with the data they require. 
  • Data can only be processed via private, confidential access. 
  • Data must be secure and protected against theft

What about eFTI in 2023?

There's still a long way to go, and little is known about eFTI's progress, other than that web architecture work is underway to fine-tune the ecosystem. The DTLF (Digital Transport & Logistic Forum), the European forum that brings together players in the transport and logistics sector, is working on the subject.

Its main objective is to support the European Commission in developing and implementing activities and programs to promote large-scale digital interoperability and data exchange in a shared, secure and trusted transport and logistics data space.

Docloop is one of the DTLF's public and private players, working together to promote and integrate the digital transformation of the transport and logistics sector. As part of our working group, we are supporting the implementation of the eFTI system at European level.

The task now is to clearly define what eFTI data is (and what it will be), what architecture to put in place and how to organize it. Ultimately, the dematerialization of transport documents on a European scale is a vast work in progress, which should theoretically be completed by August 2024. It remains to be seen whether the work will be completed on schedule.