An upturn in the European road freight market is expected in 2010 after ‘bottoming out’ in the second quarter of 2009, according to UK logistics and transport expert John Manners-Bell.

A return to 2008 levels, however, is not expected before 2012.

Manners-Bell produced the estimates after studying the quarterly financial figures of major companies as well as ‘proxy indicators’ including economic, trade and measurements of competing or complementary modes.

Major companies reported an 18%-25% drop in revenue, in line with the decline in trade volumes. The same trade figures show a bottoming out in the second quarter of 2009, which may be more relevant to determining if the road freight industry is showing any signs of recovery, Manners-Bell said.

In addition, road freight companies dedicated to the automotive sector, as well as those in the retail / consumer sector, showned an improvement in output in the second quarter of 2009, indicating improvement in the road freight sector.

Manners-Bell added that the link between GDP and road freight output has become decoupled in recent years, partly due to internationalisation of supply chains, making it difficult to get an accurate view on how the road freight industry is performing.