Freight News, Road

Put the brakes on new road cabotage laws, urges union

[ May 20, 2013   //   ]

The European Transport Workers’ Federation mounted a European action day on 14 May to try and persuade the European Commission to drop plans to free up road cabotage. The ETF says that, three years into the adoption of the new road cabotage rules, the sector is rife with ‘social dumping’ and the widespread posting abroad of drivers from low-cost member states.

The Commission is expected to launch a proposal in 2013 remove the last remaining cabotage restrictions. However, claims ETF, “Europe is divided by huge disparities in terms of wages and working conditions” with Eastern European drivers being paid up to ten times less than their colleagues from the more developed countries.

Under the rules that came into force in May 2010, operators can carry out three journeys within a seven-day period in the domestic market of another EU Member. According to the union, “the rules were an indication that law makers acknowledged the disparities in social and fiscal conditions in the EU 27, and intended to limit the risk for further social dumping and unfair competition in the sector.

“However, in the past three years the road cabotage rules failed to be properly applied and controlled by the EU Member States, while the European Commission has constantly promoted a flexible interpretation of these rules,” commented ETF political secretary, Cristina Tilling. “This, combined with a lack of interest to enforce EU social and labour laws in road transport such as the posting of workers and the Rome I Regulation, led to a massive spread of social dumping practices from international to domestic transport by road.”

The result she says, is that cabotage is widespread in domestic road transport with vehicles and drivers registered in Member States with low fiscal, social and labour conditions, “mostly via the illegal letter box company system.”

The UK’s Freight Transport Association, which represents road freight operators, is equally unenthusiastic about the cabotage plans and has been lobbying in both the UK and the EU on this issue. It said: “FTA cannot support the further liberalisation of the market until action has been taken to address the competitive disadvantages UK operators currently face, largely as a result of the high fuel duty in the UK. The statement issued by Commissioner Kallas this week that the Commission’s focus – at least in the short term – will be on improving the enforcement of the current regulations is welcome. Nevertheless FTA will continue to lobby for the delivery of a level playing field for UK operators.”

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