The electronic consignment note (e-CMR) : A reality, yes but…

  • The electronic consignment note (e-CMR) : A reality, yes but…

    Author: Frédéric Letacq

    The road sector is an essential component of the digital revolution of which we are witnessing.

    The international carriage of goods by road is subject to the provisions of the Geneva Convention –which is also called CMR convention-of 19 May 1956. The creation of international consignment note is compulsory in accordance with this Convention which is ratified by fifty countries.

    In order to simplify the carriage of goods, an additional protocol to the CMR Convention concerning the electronic consignment note was adopted the 20th of February, 2008. This protocol permits to replace the paper consignment note by an electronic one.


    1/ Reality

    Coming into force the 5th of june, 2011, this additional protocol is ratified by 11 countries today.

    • Bulgaria since 24th September 2010
    • Czech Republic since 14th April 2011
    • Denmark since 28th June 2013
    • Estonia since 2nd November 2016
    • France since 5th October 2016
    • Latvia since 3rd February 2010
    • Lithuania since 7th March 2011
    • Netherlands since 7th January 2009
    • Slovaskia since 21th February 2014
    • Spain since 11th May 2011
    • Switzerland since 26th January 2009


    The e-CMR has two major advantages. In term of cost, the electronic consignment note is an improvement because it removes paper use and permits better and faster organization by accelerating transmission and billing. Also, in term of transparency, the e-CMR has others advantages as real-time information, more accurate data, and automatic transmission data to the company…

    The e-CMR becomes reality but is still limited on several aspects. On geographical and contractual view the use of e-CMR is limited. Moreover, from the data protection and privacy perspective, the e-CMR needs to prove itself.


    2/A limited geographical scope

    If the e-CMR protocol is in force, it is only applicable between the 11 countries which are signatories.

    Today, an international carriage departing from or arriving at Croatia needs a paper consignment note in the vehicle. Indeed, the Croatia, which has only just acceded to the DTS protocol of 1978 this year, is not party to the CMR protocol: this one is not applied to its territory.

    Furthermore, the international carriage under e-CMR is possible between two signatories’ countries only if it doesn’t cross border of a non-signatory country. The road carrier can’t cross a country which imposes a paper consignment note in the vehicle. For instance, an international carriage under e-CMR is impossible between Bulgaria and France or Czech Republic and France, even if each of them is signatory to the protocol.

    In fact, only cross-border transport between two signatories countries are possible (eg Slovakia / Czech Republic or Spain / France), as was the case for the first experimentation in June 2017 between the cities of Huelva in Spain and Perpignan in France (1300 km).


    3/ A limited reality on contractual sense

    Using e-CMR requires the parties’ agreement to the carriage contract to electronic data exchange. It is necessary that parties formalize their relation in writing: they have to accept the use of computer application (specific software or a downloadable application) and electronic signature.

    Beyond this condition, the e-CMR requires that the national legislation attaches the same legal value to electronic data and electronic signature than paper-bases and physical signature. In France, a reform of the Civil Code (article 1366 and following) regarding evidence established recognition. French law recognizes legal force to electronic writing and signature if the author can be identified and if conservation conditions preserve the integrity of documents.


    4/ Data and privacy protection: Limits of e-CMR

    The use of innovative technologies of communication and digitization allows three main actions.

    It permits to do automatic data entry and to communicate simultaneously those data to the head office of the carrier company.

    It also permits to gather data with other information from the vehicle (global positioning system…).

    Finally, the communication and digitization innovative technologies permit to ensure operation’s traceability.

    Such possibilities must be made in accordance with data and privacy protection rules.


    Those principles are legally established thanks to two fundamental European texts.

    – Data protection and privacy concerns are legally recognized in a European regulation on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (Regulation EU 2016/79 of 27th April 2016) and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation).

    – Also, the European Directive 2002/58/EC of 12 July 2002 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector provides a legal basis for data and privacy protection.

    Those legislative texts give key principles which enable any private individual to control his personal data.

    Particularly, heavy truck driver must expressly accept the use communication system via satellite to participate to an e-CMR development. The heavy truck driver consent must be free, unambiguous and informed. In this way, it will be necessary to revise employment contract and, in case of need, to create an amendment contract specific to this effect.


    5/ Reality all the same

    The electronic consignment note includes the same information as the paper consignment note. It can be accessible in the form of an application to be downloaded or software linked to the computer program of the transport company.

    Several systems have already been developed for this purpose and are in the experimental stage, in particular one by the IRU (International Road Union) (TransFollow) and others by companies (Dashdoc developed by Truckfly in France; Suivo developed By Value Engineers in Belgium).

    Whatever the system (software or application), reliability must be ensured through a digitized, recorded and authenticated signature. The digitized signature proves that the document has not been altered from the time it was signed by its author, an identified person, and the one where it was consulted and validated by another person also identified.

    In this regard, the French Association for Standardization (AFNOR) has published a new standard (NF Z42-026) in May to determine the specifications of digitising services in order that the digitized documents have the same legal value as the paper documents.


    6 / Operation

    After contracting with the customer, the carrier enters the transport information on the dedicated website. Then, the information is available in real time to all the participants who will have obtained an access code and a password to the secure application.

    The driver equipped with a smartphone or a tablet and, identified by the SIM card of his phone, enters the additional information (dates, times, weight, number of packages …). If necessary, he may formulate reservations and takes photos which will be attached to the e-CMR in image or pdf format. He collects the electronic signature of the consignor by means of a stylus on touch screen or a flashing of the QR code allowing a unique and safe identification. At this moment the information is validated, and can no longer be modified by the consignor and is transmitted in real time on the dedicated computer-based site.

    At any time, each stakeholder can be aware on the progress of the e-CMR, its status, and the monitoring of transport operations.

    In the case of control on road, the driver can present the e-CMR on the screen of his smartphone or tablet without making a paper print-out.

    Upon delivery to the final destination, the driver completes the e-CMR, as he would do for a paper consignment note, and validates his changing of status (consignee copy) by signing electronically. Then the consignee has all the information of the e-CMR.

    After controlling the consignment and before signature, the consignee has the possibility to formulate in turn reservations and to attach photos. A drop-down menu can be proposed to simplify the formulation of the most common reservations. The driver collects the electronic signature of the consignee on screen or by flash code. The e-CMR is then validated by the consignee and the information is submitted simultaneously on the dedicated website.

    The delivery is therefore carried out, the dates and times are proved which ends the transport operation and the presumption of the carrier liability.