Despite new guidelines from European Commission, many logistics operators have encountered significant delays at the EU’s internal borders, disrupting the delivery of goods and integrated supply chains urgently needed as the continent fights the Coronavirus pandemic.
UK’s logistics industry representative group the Freight Transport Asociation (FTA) today urged all European Union member states to act upon the EU guidelines on ‘green lanes’ for goods at borders, in order to ensure the continuous flow of trade and support essential services, keep shops full, and protect the economy.
The call comes after many logistics operators have encountered significant delays at the EU’s internal borders, which is disrupting the delivery of goods, and the integrated supply chains, that are urgently needed as the European continent fights the current Coronavirus outbreak.
It follows the new advice on Friday from the European Commission issued on how to implement its guidelines for border management, in order to keep freight moving across the EU during the current pandemic. To ensure that EU-wide supply chains continue to operate, Member States are requested to designate, without delay, all the relevant internal border-crossing points on the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) as ‘green lane’ border crossings. It said the green lane border crossings “should be open to all freight vehicles, whatever goods they are carrying. Crossing the border, including any checks and health screening, should not take more than 15 minutes.”
Pauline Bastidon, head of European and global policy at FTA, commented: “Green lanes at borders are intended to ensure freight flows freely to and from different countries, but many operators have faced, and are still facing delays of up to 14 hours at the EU’s internal borders. Currently, crossing the border should take no more than 15 minutes, as specified in the EU’s guidelines, and on behalf of our members and their partners across Europe, we are urging member states to facilitate the movement of vehicles to protect supply chains and the delivery of essential goods.
“While we are all facing such an extraordinary trading environment, procedures at green lane border crossings should be minimised and streamlined to what is strictly necessary. We are urging EU member states to ensure checks and screening can be carried out without the need for drivers to leave their vehicles, and they should not be asked to produce any documentation except ID, driver’s licence and, if necessary, a letter from the employer, as specified in the EU guidelines. Electronic submission and display of documents should be accepted.”
Bastidon said there was also no need to quarantine drivers and other workers who are not displaying symptoms of COVID-19, adding: “Quarantining workers at borders without reason is simply placing the whole supply chain under even greater threat. European logistics as a whole is facing a significant shortage of workers, particularly among drivers, and the industry which keeps the economy working efficiently simply cannot afford to sustain the gaps in the workforce which these unnecessary delays are causing.
“At present, society is relying on logistics to deliver – more now than at any other time – but our operators are being hampered by unnecessary checks and red tape.
Bastidon is also urging EU member states to temporarily suspend all road access restrictions currently in place in their territories, noting: “COVID-19 has created an exceptional set of circumstances which logistics operators are negotiating their way through to keep businesses, schools, hospitals and homes supplied all over Europe with the goods and services they need. The industry now needs the support of all European governments to support their efforts, by suspending restrictions such as weekend, night and sectoral bans, and to provide stimulus to facilitate the operation of such a vital sector of the economy.
“Logistics is committed to delivering for society but needs governments to provide support to ensure the continued movement of goods without obstruction. This will ensure the safety and resilience of the continent’s interconnected supply chains at such an extraordinary time.”
Last Friday, the EU Commission issued new practical advice on how to implement its Guidelines for border management, in order to keep freight moving across the EU during the current pandemic. To ensure that EU-wide supply chains continue to operate, Member States are requested to designate, without delay, all the relevant internal border-crossing points on the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) as ‘green lane’ border crossings. The green lane border crossings should be open to all freight vehicles, whatever goods they are carrying. Crossing the border, including any checks and health screening, should not take more than 15 minutes.
Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said: “The EU’s transport network connects the whole of the EU. Our guidance document is intended to protect the EU’s supply chains in these difficult circumstances, and to make sure both goods and transport workers are able to travel to wherever they are needed – without delay.
“A collective and coordinated approach to cross-border transport is more important today than ever before. The green lanes are also specifically designed to protect transport workers at the frontline of this crisis. This set of recommendations will ease their already stressful mission and it will bring more safety and predictability to their work.”
Green lane border crossings
It said procedures at green lane border crossings “should be minimised and streamlined to what is strictly necessary. Checks and screening should be carried out without drivers having to leave their vehicles, and drivers themselves should undergo only minimal checks.
“Drivers of freight vehicles should not be asked to produce any document other than their identification and driving license and if necessary a letter from the employer. The electronic submission/display of documents should be accepted.”
The EC said “no freight vehicle or driver should face discrimination, irrespective of origin and destination, the driver’s nationality or the vehicle’s country of registration”, adding: “In light of the current situation, Member States are also urged to temporarily suspend all road access restrictions currently in place in their territory, such as weekend, night and sectoral bans.”
The Commission encouraged Member States to set up safe passenger transit corridors to allow private drivers and their passengers, such as health and transport workers, as well as EU citizens being repatriated, regardless of their nationality, to directly pass with priority through the country in each necessary direction along the TEN-T Network. “This should be done while staying strictly on the designated route and to take the necessary minimum rest breaks,” it said. “Member States should ensure that they have at least one airport functional for repatriation and international relief flights.”
Application of rules for transport workers
To keep transport moving, the Commission also recommended that Member States take action to ensure the free movement of all workers involved in international transport, whatever the transport mode, noting: “In particular, rules such as travel restrictions, and mandatory quarantine of transport workers not displaying symptoms, should be waived.
“For example, Member States should not require that transport workers carry a doctor’s certificate to prove their good health. To ensure the safety of transport workers, enhanced hygiene and operational measures are also needed in airports, ports, railway stations and other land transport hubs. Today’s note from the Commission includes a full list of recommendations to protect drivers from the coronavirus (Annex 2).
“Internationally recognised certificates of professional competence should be considered sufficient to prove that a worker is active in international transport. In the absence of such certificates (not all international drivers have one), a letter signed by the employer (Annex 3) should be accepted.
“All of these principles should also apply to third country nationals if they are essential to ensuring that cargo moves freely within and into the EU.”
The EC stressed that the coronavirus pandemic was having a major disruptive impact on European transport and mobility, noting: “The European supply chain is maintained through an extensive network of freight transport services, including all modes of transport. Continued and uninterrupted land, waterborne and air cargo services are of crucial importance for the functioning of the EU’s internal market and its effective response to the current public health crisis.”