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COST 306
Automatic Transmission of Data Relating to Transport

COST 306 image
© M&S/EKA/eureka slide

Chairman : T. Blomfeldt (FIN)

Vice-Chairman : P. Hanappe (F)
Institut National de Recherche sur les Transports et leur Sécurité - INRETS

Scientific Secretary :
European Commission
Fax: +32 2 296 37 65
Email: (email removed)


3 years; completed May 1989.


15 COST Countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden Switzerland, United Kingdom and Yugoslavia.

International organisation: the European Commission.


  • To research and demonstrate how EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) and other computer techniques (in a standardised environment) could be employed instead of the currently used paper document procedures to the benefit of the transport sector. In particular, EDI utilisation can improve profitability by offering more effective use of resources in international transport and faster flow of goods.
  • To make the main objective viable, further sub-objectives were set:
    • Development of standard EDI messages for the transport sector in Europe
    • A 'demonstration action': a trial of the COST 306 messages in a variety of situations, each dealing with international movement of goods
    • A promotion campaign throughout the European transport sector on the use of EDI.


  • EDI messages : The COST 306 messages developed for use in the European transport sector are multifunctional (can be used for different functions/documents, e.g. bill of lading, waybill etc.), multimodal (can be used for different/combined modes of transport) and can be used by a wide range of participants in the transport chain (shippers, forwarders, carriers, etc.).

    The messages developed, with input from major European user groups, were based on the international EDIFACT (Electronic Data Interchange For Administration, Commerce and Transport) standards of the United Nations' Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva.

  • Demonstration project : This was a trial of COST 306 EDI messages in a variety of situations, each concerned with the international movement of goods. There was great interest in participating in the trials: more than 20 'chains' were formed, each typically involving shippers, forwarders, carriers, consignees, etc.
  • Survey : Participants completed two questionnaires, before and after the trial, covering, respectively, operational environment, expectations etc., and experience of the trial.
  • Promotion campaign : This focused on the demonstration project and was targeted at national and international transport professionals, the trade press and the general press.
  • Results of COST 306 : The questionnaire answers from the 40 participating companies indicated a good degree of satisfaction with the trial. The standardised COST 306 messages proved adequate to meet the business needs for which they were designed. This was important as they formed the basis of the IFTM (International Forwarding and Transport Message) framework, which at the time the Action was carried out, were developed by the UN standardisation bodies at international level.

    There were, nevertheless, a number of problems still to be addressed: lack of commercially available software; unsatisfactory connections between VANs (Value Added Networks) and the inability of telecommunications companies to provide adequate international facilities.

    Although COST 306 has been a major step forward in the utilisation of EDI in transport, continued research, promotion and practical demonstrations would be needed before the concept is fully accepted in the sector.

The results of COST 306 were presented at an international seminar held in Brussels on 23 November 1989.


The use of EDI in the transport sector is becoming increasingly attractive, due to the following main factors:

  • increase in power and reduction in price of computer hardware;
  • success of the introduction of 'Just-in-Time' manufacturing processes, which depend heavily on control of the 'information chain' from raw materials to end-product; EDI increases reliability and speed of information transmission;
  • EDI can also be regarded and used as a tool to improve efficiency of the whole company;
  • with globalisation of markets, EDI enables documentation to accompany the movement of goods around the world;
  • an alternative to paper documentation systems has become increasingly necessary, especially with the trend in smaller units being transported and the paper/goods ratio growing.

EDI thus has enormous value beyond its primary function: it can help with many management problems.

Benefits to Different Users

  • International transport companies : COST 306 has made a valuable contribution to the development of EDI in the sector. Increased EDI use should provide a stimulant for international trade through less complex, 'paperless' trading. Companies, especially small and medium-sized ones, which have been inhibited from developing internationally, will find EDI useful to help them do so. Notably, many companies may decide to explore EDI when they are approached by a prospective trading partner who already implements it.
  • Border/customs authorities : With standard EDI messages, across international borders, between shipper, forwarder, transporter, their respective agents and customs, it should be possible to be able to replace a considerable number of paper based transactions, many of them repetitive.

Related Activities


Final Report
1990 - 74 pp - 16.2 x 22.9 cm
ISBN 92-826-1347-X - EUR 12737 - Price: ECU 8.25
Also available in French and German

EDI Manual - Implementation Support for International Transport
1991 - 90 pp - 16.2 x 22.9 cm
ISBN 92-826-2025-5 - EUR 13209 - Price: ECU 8.75
Also available in French and German

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