In order to promote recommendations of a number of strategic documents on road transport prepared by EC and a number of professional organisations, a series of TRA (Transport Research Arena) conferences were organised. The second TRA took place in Ljubljana, in April 2008, during the Slovenian presidency of the EU.
The TRA mission is to enhance the alignment of road transport research at European and national levels, involving not only researchers, but also industry, policy-makers and end-users. The slogan of the conferences is Greener, Safer and Smarter Road Transport for Europe, with the main theme selected for the TRA2008 being: Creating an Innovative Road Transport for Europe. This addresses two objectives related to the dissemination of results of road transport research and support for TRA2008.
The first objective is to enhance integration of the New Member States, Candidate and European Neighbourhood Policy Countries into the European road transport research area. These countries have not contributed much to the present European activity in the field. This Coordination and Support Action ('CSA') provides tools to support the participation of delegates from these countries to actively contribute to TRA2008 and become more involved in European research projects and the application of their results.
The second objective is to directly support TRA through activities that raise awareness of the event and to reinforce its profile as a major European and internationally important conference.
This was in accordance with the TRA mission, which is not to be just another conference but rather to become the major meeting event for all road transport stake-holders. Thus, the CSA supports 'ambassadors' to undertake awareness raising missions, to explain the opportunities and benefits for different stakeholders including public authorities, industry and researchers. The partners in the CSA are the three local organisers and the FEHRL, a European association in the area of road research.
Overall, considerable progress was made in all the areas of the technologies, systems and in behavioural understanding since the previous TRA conference in Göteborg. Global warming has come to be considered a broader issue, therefore it has been included together with other issues such as safety and congestion issues. The main conclusions of the conference are produced under 8 different headings:
- Environment: Global warming is one of the gravest issues facing todays society, the role of transport in meeting the aggressive Co2 reduction targets is therefore vital. Evidence was presented supporting a likely evolution from fossil based fuels to electric/hydrogen based fuels. Such a change is likely to be spurred on by the availability and price of oil as well as carbon reduction goals. Noise reduction and non-Co2 emissions were also covered by many papers.
- Safety: The level of accidents vary largely between the different EU Member States, which is something that should be addressed through conventional approaches. Infrastructure, training and enforcement measures are vital for safety, best practices on these aspects were presented during the conference. Extra focus should be put on serious injury accidents and fatalities, as it could lead to the production of new safety innovations. Approaching safety issues through a synergy of disciplines is important for understanding accident causation and remedial actions. Several examples of how such synergies could work were presented. Research on human factors such as driver behaviour and safety implications will become more important with changes in driver functions and in demographics. Vehicle manufacturers will develop better safety alternatives, though a more integrated stakeholder approach is necessary for these safety alternatives to penetrate the market successfully.
- Vehicles: The potential benefits of cooperative driving systems have been shown through research to improve safety and to reduce environmental impact. Though more research is needed to create viable business solutions. Research into powertrains, and energy loss in general, is delivering promising benefits in terms of efficiency and the environment.
- Mobility: Developments in vehicle types, as well as technological developments, will contribute to a much wider choice in mobility systems and services both for people and goods. Opportunities for more efficient, safe and sustainable goods movement is offe
- An efficient and integrated mobility system: The conference discussed development regarding transport safety, as well as innovations that might help create a more efficient mobility system. One of the objectives of the conference was also to better integrate the transport research on national levels with the EU level.
- Innovating for the future, technology and behaviour: As mentioned above, new innovation in transport research were presented and discussed broadly at the conference. From the results of the conference it can also be seen that changes in human attitudes and behaviour played a part in foreseeing new possible developments necessary to meet such changes.
- Modern infrastructure and smart funding: New development in modern infrastructure was also presented and discussed at the conference, like for instance the possible benefits new construction materials can bring to the building of transport infrastructure.