No more paper for the bin

Electronic consignment note promises a leap in quality

Italy will soon introduce the electronic consignment note. Its establishment in Europe and beyond aims at a more cost-efficient and transparent documentation of road transports. From 2026, the so-called eCMR is to become mandatory throughout the EU. We take a look at the current state of development for you.

Anyone who orders something privately online knows the flood of emails that results. In a mixture of relevant information and further marketing impulses, but also with regard to legally secure processing, the person placing the order receives a huge amount of mail. Here, digital business activity already shows itself at a qualitatively high level that does not yet exist in many places in logistics. But legislators and the industry are working hard to improve this - for example with a view to introducing the electronic consignment note for paperless documentation of cross-border road freight transport.

Italian often sounds pleasant to English native speakers because of their cultural imprint. So the headline "La rivoluzione dell'export sempre più vicina grazie all'e-CMR" of a logistics portal based there recently promised nothing less than a revolution. This spring, the government set the course for the introduction of the electronic consignment note in the country south of the Alps. But first, let's take a brief look at the past of this topic:

Facts about the International Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road:

  • The name CMR is derived from the French: Convention relative au contrat de transport international de marchandises par route.
  • Introduced in 1956, this agreement is valid not only, but above all, in Europe and has been continuously adapted over the last almost seven decades.
  • The vocabulary eCMR is used to abbreviate the electronic consignment note.
  • In 2008, an addendum to the contract of carriage in international road freight transport was signed for its introduction and then the eCMR protocol was initiated three years later.
  • However, due to the complexity of its development, it was not until 2017 that the first digital consignment note shipment took place between Spain and France.
  • According to a UN page, 33 states have so far either already adopted the eCMR protocol or even ratified the deposited requirements.

Quality leap expected
Fewer documents to be physically carried are certainly just as tempting for many forwarding companies and their drivers as saving paper from an ecological point of view. In view of the susceptibility to errors of classic consignment notes, which has been repeatedly identified in studies on a random basis - for example, when it comes to completeness or legibility - all those involved, from the shipper to the consignee, are hoping that the eCMR will not least improve the standard of international transport handling.

Main reasons for the introduction of the eCMR (according to industry lobby IRU):

  • Lower costs (faster administration, faster invoicing, fewer discrepancies in distribution).
  • More transparency (better data quality, plus in control mechanisms and consignment monitoring, access to live transport data).

For 2026, the responsible authorities are planning the mandatory introduction in all member states of the European Union. By this time, Germany, which has not yet finalised this step with legal effect, would also have to follow suit at the latest. The digital consignment note (additionally) has already been used intensively in this country since its approval in April 2022, as a bitkom study found out at the end of last year. Still the final ratification of the eCMR protocol is still pending.

Optimised view of the supply chain
From the perspective of even more digitalised supply chains in the future, in which silo thinking is overcome and every participant in a transport order receives the information it needs correctly and promptly, the electronic consignment note represents another important variable in such a success equation. With the precisely analysed treasure trove of data that this provides, scheduling processes can be further improved so that the flow of goods will be even more efficient in the years and decades to come. Then the phrase "rivoluzione", i.e. revolution, will once again fit perfectly.

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