Development of business units

DB Schenker business unit

Development in the relevant markets

Land transport


Transport demand in European land transport increased significantly in the first quarter of 2021 and also in the months thereafter, significantly above the corresponding level of the previous year and in some cases even reached the pre-crisis level seen in 2019. There was a noticeable sharp decline in available shipping space in the first quarter of 2021. The scarce capacity was largely due to the strong development in demand, and partly due to the longer periods of time that trucks transporting goods in the inland waterways were having to stay in the ports due to the overloading of container shipping occurring at the time. DB Schenker recorded a noticeable increase in the volume of shipments in the first half of 2021.


The gradual recovery of the North American economy (USA, Canada and Mexico) led to a solid revival of transport demand. The recovery was noticeably slower in South America. Compared with the previous year, which had been marked by drastic slumps since April 2020, there was significant growth in both revenues and shipment figures in the first few months of 2021, but the level of 2019 has not yet been reached again.


Since November 2020, the market for international truck transport in Asia has been noticeably overloaded due to the further increase in demand as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic subsiding. Development was strengthened by restrictions in ocean freight, in particular container shortages and lack of ship capacity. Transport services also suffered from very volatile production due to disruptions in the supply chains, such as chip shortages in the electronics and automotive industry and new localized Covid-19 outbreaks.

Air freight

Compared with the poor start to 2020, which was dominated by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the global air freight market recorded strong growth rates in early 2021. As of April 2021, the market recovery was robust, with an increase of 16% compared with the same period in the previous year. As most of the passenger aircraft planned for intercontinental flights were still not in use, growing demand continued to face a shortage of capacity. As a result, air freight rates remained at a consistently high level and significantly above their historical averages. DB Schenker’s tonnage rose sharply.

Ocean freight

After extreme declines in volume in the first half of 2020, followed by a rapid upswing in demand, global container freight ended 2020 with a decline. 2021 started with good growth in the first half of the year, but there were several barriers that had a negative impact on market capacity. The significant container shortage in Asia, extremely low time­table reliability, which was exacerbated by the blockage of the Suez Canal, and a lack of ship capacity all led to extreme overloading in the ports. In mid-2021, this situation was exacerbated by backlogs in Asian ports, such as Yantian, which were triggered by renewed outbreaks of Covid-19. As a result of these disruptions, freight rates remain at a record level. DB Schenker’s freight volumes showed a recovery.

Contract logistics

The global recovery of trade, production and industry beginning in the second half of 2020 and thus also the demand for contract logistics services continued in the first few months of 2021. However, disruptions in international supply chains have long been noticeable. The arising problems with chip and semiconductor supply led to stagnating or declining revenues in the automotive industry; in contrast, the food, healthcare and hygiene, and high-tech sectors continued to develop very positively. E-commerce, which is already growing dynamically, also contributed significantly to market growth. DB Schenker recorded significant revenue growth in the first half of 2021.

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