Freight News, Road

European Parliament agrees road reform package – updated

[ July 10, 2020   //   ]

The European Parliament agreed the 1st Mobility Package to reform the road transport sector on 9 July including revised rules to improve driver working conditions and reduced distortion of competition in the sector.

MEPs endorsed the three legal acts that make up the ‘mobility package’ without amendments, as adopted by EU ministers in April 2020, following the political agreement with the Council reached in December 2019.

Parliamentary rapporteur Katerina Konecna said a major problem the reform tackled were “drivers that for weeks or months travel around Europe without having appropriate time to rest.”

The revised rules for posting of drivers, drivers’ driving times and rest periods and better enforcement of cabotage rules aim to put an end to distortion of competition and provide better rest conditions for drivers, allowing them to spend more time at home. Companies will have to organise their schedules so that drivers in international freight transport can return home every three or four weeks. Mandatory regular weekly rest can no longer be taken in the truck cab and, if this rest period is taken away from home, the company must pay for accommodation costs.

Vehicle tachographs will be used to register border-crossings in order to tackle fraud. To prevent systematic cabotage, there will be a cooling-off period of four days before more cabotage operations can be carried out within the same country with the same vehicle.

To fight the use of ‘letterbox companies’, road haulage businesses would need to be able to demonstrate that they are substantially active in the member state in which they are registered. The new rules will require trucks to return to the company’s operational centre every eight weeks.

Light commercial vehicles of over 2.5 tonnes will also be subject to EU rules for transport operators, including fitting with a tachograph.

The adopted rules will enter into force after they are published in the EU’s Official Journal in the coming weeks. The rules on posting will apply 18 months after the entry into force of the legal act. The rules on rest times, including the return of drivers, will apply 20 days after publication of the act. Rules on return of trucks and other changes to market access rules will apply 18 months after the entry into force of the act on market access.

In response, European Transport Commissioner Adina-Ioana Vălean said that while she welcomed thesocial improvements included in the Mobility Package, the requirement to return the vehicle to the Member State of establishment every eight weeks and the restrictions imposed on combined transport operations were not in line with the European Green Deal’s ambitions and the European Council aim for a climate-neutral EU by 2050.

The obligation to return trucks may lead to unnecessary emissions and congestion, while the restrictions on combined transport could diminish its effectiveness to support multimodal freight operations.

She said: “We are currently assessing the expected impact of these two aspects on the climate, the environment, and the functioning of the Single Market, and we are gathering all the necessary information. I encourage the road transport sector and the national authorities to support this work by providing relevant data for the assessment.

“We will have the conclusions of the studies ready before the end of this year. The Commission, if necessary, will exercise its right to come forward with a targeted legislative proposal before the two provisions enter into force.”

General manager of Freight Transport Association Ireland, FTAI, Aidan Flynn, commented: “FTAI is disappointed with the final Mobility Package. While the objectives of the package are commendable, the views of industry on how to achieve them have been disregarded; this will lead to unintended consequences. The rules laid out surrounding cabotage will put pressure on the business case of international transport, even in countries whose hauliers cannot be suspected of predatory competition based on low wages. Besides, as per the revised rules, a vehicle must return to the member state of establishment every eight weeks. This will lead to inefficiencies in the transport system and an increase in emissions, pollution, and congestion. This will be hugely detrimental to the EU’s ability to meet its goal to become climate neutral by 2050l. The mobility package will have far reaching consequences for international and national transport operations over the coming years; an impact assessment must be carried out as a matter of urgency.”

He added: “While there is merit in introducing legislation to facilitate a level playing field and improve the working conditions of drivers, the phased introduction of measures relating to driving hours, cabotage rules, posting of workers, operator licencing for international van operations and return home rules will be a lot to take in for operators, many of whom are already struggling to keep up with the administrative burden imposed by regulatory requirements.”