Group of 10 European states says latest proposals ‘risk maintaining legal uncertainty and differences in the interpretation of the regulations’.
A road freight alliance of 10 European states launched last year to defend fair competition and workers’ rights in the sector has slammed the new proposals in a European Union ‘mobility package’ that is scheduled to be brought before the EU Council next month.
“These proposals risk maintaining legal uncertainty and differences in the interpretation of the regulations, making checks more difficult and leading to a deterioration of working conditions of lorry drivers and road safety, while further exacerbating social dumping, unfair competition and systematic cabotage practices at the expense of the already fragile balance of the European and national markets,” it claimed.
At a meeting earlier this week of transport ministers from the alliance, Greece formally became a member, joining Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. The Netherlands was also represented at the meeting as an observer.
“The (EU) Presidency’s new proposals do not constitute progress in the search for a real compromise that effectively and concretely prevents the misuse of European road transport law; progress on a compromise that does not degrade social rules and strengthens the European project is, nevertheless, essential,” the alliance noted.
“The prevention of fraud in cabotage, posting (‘posted workers’) and combined transport, as well as the fight against so-called ‘letterbox’ companies and the control of the exponential development of light-duty vehicles and their uses, are all fundamental questions that must be answered in concrete and operational terms.”
The new rules will commit the EU and its members states for at least the next ten years and the alliance warned that there was no question of adopting them “if they are neither ambitious enough nor easily controllable”.
An agreement on the mobility package by the European Council has been scheduled for June this year, but the alliance underlined that this timeframe risks being compromised as “a lot of open issues still have to be addressed”.
After an initial set of proposals for commercial road transport was presented by the European Commission’s (EC) last May, the International Road Transport Union (IRU) described them as lacking in “clarity and simplicity”, while underlining that it did contain “many positive elements.”
The ‘Mobility Package’ includes proposals on: the strengthening of the rules governing access to the profession; making it harder for ‘letterbox’ companies to operate; enhanced cooperation between Member States on enforcement issues; flexibility of the driving and rest time rules to allow drivers to ‘reach home’; changes to legislation covering cabotage – with staff carrying out such operations considered as ‘posted workers’, and also that relating to tachographs with the requirement to enter a country code when crossing an international border thus aiding enforcement; and also measures to facilitate the European Electronic Tolling System.
The alliance was formed early last year by nine European states, highlighting their growing concerns over alleged violations of EU labour laws and illegal business practices within the road haulage sector, which they claim has led to unfair competition and ‘social dumping’. An EU source told Lloyd’s Loading List at the time that the European Commission (EC) shared a number of the views expressed by the group and was working on a number of initiatives for the road haulage industry to bring more clarity and a better enforcement of labour legislation.