‘Europe on the move’ – but how fast?

Recalling that the road haulage economy in the EU accounts for five million jobs and contributes close to 2% of the EU’s GDP, last week the European Commission put forward its new mobility package. Designed to help the transport sector to remain competitive in a socially fair transition towards clean energy and digitalisation, the ‘Europe on the move’ package is based on three pillars: fair & competitive, connected and clean mobility. Legislation aimed at fighting the disintegration of the haulage market and red tape has been expected for some time across Europe. However, the new proposal has been received with mixed feelings and can be said to reflect the West-East clash in regard to truckers’ rights.

The most contentious items are the social aspects of the package. Under the Commission’s new proposal, drivers will be considered as posted workers if they spend at least three days in a given calendar month on the territory of a Member State. Making local labour rules and minimum wage rates apply only after three days out of the home countries is likely to protect West European truckers from the so-called social dumping. This rule is, therefore, likely to please western EU countries that have pushed for stricter rules, such as France, Germany and Austria. However, whilst preventing drivers from lower-wage countries from undercutting better paid workers when they travel to other member states, the new proposal could benefit exploited truckers too. The burden in this case will fall on transport companies from Central and Eastern Europe.

Another controversial change in the proposal applies to cabotage. Until now, EU rules allowed for three cabotage operations within seven days of the international delivery whereas the new rules allow unlimited deliveries over five days. Dropping the number of cabotage operations should lead to simpler enforcement and will also allow trucks to have less empty runs, thereby saving fuel on unproductive business. It is questionable, though, to what extent these policies will in fact cut red-tape and bring the much-needed clarity in the sector. On the contrary, some industry commentators argue that the new rules on cabotage could lead to yet more differences in interpretation of the legislation by Member States.

Another key element of the new proposal is the fairly ambitious agenda for road charging, which has generally been well accepted by forwarders and logistics companies. The core of the Commission’s clean and connected mobility is the new road toll system which should facilitate cross-border mobility through the implementation of electronic toll systems based on distance rather than duration.

Indeed, electronic tolls systems will not only generate seamless traffic between EU countries but they will also remove the need for multiple boxes in the cab and cut costs, which is why there has been an industry-wide support for this rule. The Commission also proposes road charges based on emissions performance, thus providing incentives for environmentally-friendly vehicles. Even though the Commission cannot force any country to introduce road tolls, those in operation would have to follow certain principles. This means that countries which use the time-based “vignettes” for trucks, such as Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden, or Germany, which plans annual or shorter duration passes for cars, would have to adjust their schemes by 2023.

Overall, the new mobility package reflects not only the compromises that need to be made between Western and Eastern Europe transport companies and workers, but also the challenge to align the social and environmental aspects with the competitiveness of the internal road transport. Having said that, it should be acknowledged that overall, the new mobility package contributes towards simplification and harmonisation of the rules governing road transport.

If this brief has been of interest you might also like to download Ti’s European Road Freight Transport 2016 report. It includes profiles of 20 European countries, as well as the region’s largest road freight operators. In addition, included in the report are Ti’s unique market sizing and forecasts, broken down by domestic and international road freight, for each European country.

Source: Transport Intelligence, June 08, 2017

Author: Violeta Keckarovska



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