75 nations map out future of road transport at IRU World Congress

His Highness Sayyid Asaad bin Tareq al Said, Deputy Prime Minister for International Relations and Cooperation Affairs and Personal Representative of His Majesty the Sultan, officially inaugurated the International Road Transport Organisation (IRU) World Congress in Muscat at the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre. Organised by IRU and co-hosted by ASYAD in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport and Communications, participants from over 75 countries have gathered to help shape the future of the industry over the next two days, driving debate on trade and innovation, in the region and beyond.

Themed “Innovation on the Move”, this year’s Congress explores to the role of technological advancements in optimising operations management, driving continuous improvement and facilitating global trade. “The faster we adopt disruptive technologies, the better chance we have to stay competitive and serve our customers better,” said Nabil Salim al Bimani, Group Chief of Ports & Freezone and member of the organising committee. “Technology-driven innovation will be the key to meeting the challenges of tomorrow.”
The first day started with a special session organised in partnership with Mwasalat which brought together leading international figures to examine major challenges facing passenger transport operators today and discuss the solutions for tomorrow.
Commenting on the modernisation of Mwasalat, Oman’s national transport company, CEO Ahmed al Bulushi said, “We have initiated a number of innovations such as smart ticketing, passenger information systems, and automated vehicle management systems. All these initiatives will help to improve transport systems and mobility, reduce traffic associated problem, enhance the economy and, finally, help to continue the economic and social development of the Sultanate of Oman.”
The Congress also marked the culmination of IRU’s 70th anniversary adventure, “We Love the Road”. David Couliau, a film producer, entrepreneur, skateboarder and storyteller, travelled through 18 countries across three continents by truck, bus, coach, taxi and skateboard to meet the real people of road transport.
In the first opening plenary session, “Moving in the 21st Century — Road Transport, Mobility and Trade” José Manuel Durão Barroso, Chairman of Goldman Sachs International and Former President of the European Commission, urged the industry to work together to effect positive change, “It is essential to talk, regardless of differing interests and animosities, because talking is what leads to deals, which in turn means trade and global prosperity.”
Futurist and innovation expert Jim Carroll shared extensive knowledge and insights into the cutting-edge trends of our time to assist businesses and governments to pursue fast-paced innovation, and navigate rapid business model disruption and change. He said, “In a time of rapid change, you can’t expect to get by on what has worked in the past. You must be willing to do things differently. Abandon routine — embrace velocity!”
The interactive roundtable sessions discussed a number of hot topics including data management and analysis, enhancing competitiveness with infrastructure development and new intermodal connections, designing the future workforce, adopting next generation platforms, enabling trade facilitation and increasing fuel efficiencies.
On decarbonising transport, Benny Smets, CEO of the Belgian transport company Ninatrans, said, “Alternative fuels are the future for road transport, but only if they are easy to access! We have to leave the chicken and egg dilemma. Sustainable transport can be achieved if the whole logistics chain participates. Operators want to invest in vehicles on alternative fuel only if the Total Cost of Ownership is known and economically feasible.”
Companies, entrepreneurs, and start-ups shaping the future of the mobility, logistics, and transport industry were also exhibited at the Innovation Alley. In the “Start Up Competition” organised by Road Ventures SA, six budding enterprises were short-listed and went head to head to win the $100,000 prize in equity investment.
SafeDrivePod offers a complete solution to fight smartphone distraction in traffic, whereas CargoX is the independent supplier of blockchain-based Smart Bill of Lading (Smart B/L™) solution. Lowbus is a renting bus company — which owns no buses — that offers lower prices and more control to travel agencies and Zeleros hyperloop is developing a scalable transport system to move passenger and cargo at 1000 km/h with reduced infrastructure cost.
Kydo Dynamics offers mobility analytics based on the principals of Particle Physics using mobile data as a source. Last but not least, Meep is a mobility app through which users can search, reserve and pay for trips within a single transaction.
The IRU World Congress will conclude on Thursday where innovation and competitiveness will be the main topic of discussion.