VR Transpoint Head of Business operations in Russia, Risto Kelloniemi, welcomes the change.
“Russia has now adopted the European practice. Drivers must show that they are aware of the currently valid traffic rules and border crossing practices. In the end, customers are the ones who benefit from this change.”
Russian drivers working at VR Transpoint have already been updating their professional skills and know-how.
“Our drivers have undergone training organised by the Russian Transport and Logistics Organisation and taken all the required exams,” Kelloniemi says.
The monitoring of permits commenced at the Russian border stations halfway through December.
“Drivers must present a certificate granted by the authorities. Without a sufficient certificate, permission to cross the border will not be granted.”
Kelloniemi feels that most drivers will already have the required permits.
“Drivers have been informed of this change for years. I don’t think there is a driver who would attempt to cross the border without the required permit.”
Online services are used to streamline customs operations
An electronic customs declaration system was implemented early this year at the Russian border to make border crossing faster.
In the system, the sender electronically provides the Russian customs with the documents concerning the items to be declared in advance. When a truck reaches the border, these documents are ready and do not need to be further inspected at the border.
VR Transpoint offers a service where it declares items on its customers’ behalf.
“We have our own declarations officers who handle communications. All documents and items are customs-coded and sent to customs. The customs then provide us with a numerical code for the delivery in question, and we send these on to the driver as a text message. Once the driver reaches the border, they simply present the code at the customs and carry on.
Balance in transport
VR Transpoint trucks are crossing the border between Finland and Russia every day.
“We transport Finnish industrial products into Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Most transport services terminate in St. Petersburg and its surrounding area or in Moscow. Cargo such as construction materials is transported into Finland.”
“We have reached a good balance in our transport operations. Earlier this year, the majority of transport operations were directed eastward, but now the proportions have been balanced out.”
“This change is the result of the weakening of the Russian rouble. It would appear that unless the rouble grows significantly stronger, this trend will continue and soon there will be more goods transported from Russia into Finland than vice versa.”
In short, competition in the Russian transport sector is intense.
“There is a lot of competition in road traffic. The sector has surplus capacity, which has a negative impact on pricing. Only the bare minimum is covered.”
Sales in Finland and in Russia
Kelloniemi feels that operating on both sides of the border has helped VR Transpoint adapt to the market. The main headquarters are located in Vyborg, while the sales organisation is located in St. Petersburg.
“Your operations are built on a more solid foundation if you control both markets,” Kelloniemi points out.
Another key factor in terms of competition is the comprehensive service VR Transpoint offers its customers.
“We currently offer customs services in Finland, and we are gradually starting to offer these services in Russia, too. We also offer storage services in Finland.”
VR Transpoint currently has a sufficient fleet of trucks and drivers.
“We have 60 of our own trucks, and a subcontracting capacity for 200 more. At the moment, we have a sufficient number of drivers, but unfortunately, the numbers are diminishing throughout Russia. We have observed that, unfortunately, young people are no longer interested in the profession.”
Kelloniemi has a positive outlook for 2019.
“If the rouble remains reasonably stable and the balance in transport is maintained, we are looking at a good profit.
Over the past autumn, VR Transpoint has merged its domestic and international road logistics operations.
“This organisational change does not have much of an impact on our daily operations. Instead, the merging of road traffic operations has had a positive impact. The closer we are to domestic trade activities, the more synergies we can establish,” Kelloniemi assesses the situation.