The impact of EU Mobility Package on capacity and costs

Despite being known as a growth driver in Europe, German consumer demand is often mediocre with the economy disproportionately dependent on exports of automotive products in particular.

The Mobility Package is an EU package of regulations that aims to end the distortion of competition in the road transport sector and ensure improved working conditions for drivers across Europe.

The Mobility Package was published on 30 July 2020 and contains a series of regulations that come into force at different times. The new driving time and rest period regulation is already in force since 20 August 2020. The new rules on the posting of drivers came into force on 2 February 2022. The next milestone for the Mobility Package is on 21 February when the most far-reaching measures of the Package will come into force.

Impending changes 21 February 2022

  • Return of the vehicle – Trucks must be returned to the member State of establishment every 8 weeks without exception. The cooling off measure is designed to make life hard for so-called letterbox companies — businesses based in cheaper countries that actually operate more or less permanently in other nations. 
  • Cooling-off period for cabotage – Three trips within seven days followed by a cooling-off period of four days.
  • Minimum wage and registration obligation – A requirement is introduced to pay truck drivers at least the minimum wage fixed in the EU member state where they carry out cabotage, combined transport or international cross-trade transports (a Polish haulier who drives between UK and Germany, for example).
  • Tightened requirements for documentation – Additional administration for each of the new legislations for hauliers due to the tightened requirements for documentation compared to the current level. Additionally, all transports must be registered in a pan-European IT system – the Internal Market Information System (IMI).
  • Combined transport – Combined transport will be comparable to cabotage and will therefore be subject to the same limitations with regards to the number of trips, days of driving and cooling-off periods.
  • Tax changes – Changes to taxes on drivers’ wages are introduced in a number of Eastern European countries due to the EU Mobility Package. New legislation has been enforced in various countries where previous tax free “per diem” payments for drivers have been replaced by regular taxable wages. This is estimated to increase wage costs as drivers ask for higher salaries because they now have to pay tax on all their wage. Poland, Romania and Bulgaria have already introduced these changes, with more countries expected to implement similar changes.

Impact of new regulations

The latest regulations are going to significantly impact road freight operations in Europe and put pressure on capacity and rates.

Impact on capacity

With the capacity pressures that we have seen in the past year, the situation is expected to get even worse as fewer trucks can do cabotage trips because of the return home policy for trucks. According to a study commissioned by the EU Commission, as a result of this rule, vehicles would need to return more regularly to the operational centre in their current Member State of establishment, potentially resulting in additional vehicle journeys of 2% compared to business-as-usual case.

The rule is expected to take capacity out of the market because vehicles will have to return to their home member states and might have to run empty in the return journeys. In particular, Eastern European hauliers will be more affected and might not be able to secure additional loads for the return journeys as there are limited market opportunities to and from their operational centres.

The cooling off period for cabotage operations is also expected to reduce domestic capacities.

Impact on costs/rates

The capacity pressure is likely to further push up costs as the balance of supply and demand tips in favour of suppliers. Moreover, additional vehicle journeys represent additional costs (e.g. fuel, tyres, drivers, etc.). Rates are therefore expected to increase as hauliers pass through the additional costs arising from the new return home policy for trucks. Hauliers established in Eastern European countries may be more inclined to partially absorb additional costs to keep their competitive advantage against the rest of the market that has been less affected by the new regulation. 99.8% of the vehicles engaged in cycles longer than eight weeks are anticipated to be operated by Eastern European-based hauliers. These vehicles are likely to be mostly affected by the provision since they are currently not in compliance with the new obligation and thus would have to return home more frequently.

The posting of drivers rule will also put pressure on costs. Operators will be faced with higher driver costs when operating out of home country due to higher local minimum wage.

Impact on the environment

Finally, the return of the vehicle rule could potentially result in up to 2.9m tonnes of additional CO2 emissions in 2023 (a 4.6% increase in international road freight emissions).


Overall, while the latest rules bring an improvement to the working conditions of drivers, they are likely to reduce capacity and make deliveries more expensive. Haulage operators have already started introducing changes to respond to the latest regulations. Girteka, for instance, recently announced it will increase prices. Considering the already difficult operating environment, including rising fuel and raw materials costs, the challenges with sourcing capacity and the resulting rising freight costs will continue for some time.

Source: Transport Intelligence, February 17, 2021

Author: Violeta Keckarovska