Identify priority lanes. Ensure that border checks do not exceed 15 minutes. Remove restrictions on movement for road freight transport and transport personnel generally. The European Commission has set out the measures it expects member states to take to ensure the flow of freight is fluid during the Covid-19 epidemic.
A week after having presented its guidelines for the coordinated border management of the Covid-19 epidemic, the European Commission set out the concrete measures it expects member states to take in a communication published on March 23.
Green lane border crossings
In its guidelines, the commission first wanted to set up "green lane border crossings". Member states have now been invited to designate all border crossing points within the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) without delay as "green lanes".
The commission's communication principally concerns road transport but applies, where appropriate, to trains and ships, according to the document published on March 23. Member states are also encouraged to "ensure that they have at least one airport functional for repatriation and international relief flights".
Border crossing point procedures should keep down the number of checks which, according to the commission, should not take longer than 15 minutes, including any health screening of personnel. "Waiting times on some recent days, at certain internal EU borders, went beyond 24 hours, even for medical supplies," the commission complains.
The communication stipulates, moreover, that green lanes should be open to all goods vehicles, whatever the goods they are carrying. The commission says that vehicles and drivers should also be treated in a non-discriminatory manner "irrespective of the origin, destination, or country of registration of the vehicle, or of the nationality of the driver".
The International Road Transport Union (IRU), the worldwide road transport body, welcomed the creation of the green lanes but considers that there should not be systematic checks if there is a real wish to reduce waiting time at borders.
Once again, with a view to keeping traffic flows fluid, EU member states are invited to "temporarily suspend all types of road access restrictions in place in their territory", including, notably, "week-end bans, night bans, sectoral bans".
All these relaxations are accompanied, however, with strict rules concerning respect for designated itineraries, as well as for the necessary minimum rest breaks.
Facilitating the work of transport personnel
The commission also examined the position of transport personnel. As we know, drivers have been subjected to particularly difficult conditions recently. The commission decided, therefore, to deal with this question by extending it to all transport modes.
In the road transport sector, it recommends that drivers should not be required to present any other documents than their identity card, their driving licence and, if necessary, a letter from their employer (a model is supplied in an annex). This measure has been welcomed by the IRU. The presentation of documents on electronic devices is also acceptable.
The commission pleads, too, for a guarantee of freedom of movement for all workers involved in international transport. "In particular, rules such as travel restrictions and mandatory quarantine of transport workers not displaying symptoms, should be waived," it says.
Suspension of bans on cabin rest breaks
Finally, it stresses the important of the health of personnel, saying that their security should be guaranteed by "the use of measures to deliver enhanced hygiene in airports, ports, railway stations and other land transport hubs". The commission also publishes an annex to its communication containing a complete list of recommendations. It details the equipment to be made available to enable drivers to protect themselves and the behaviour to be adopted to respect social distancing rules during rest breaks and checks. Everything possible should be done to avoid drivers having to leave their cabins during checks. Member states which ban cabin rest breaks are encouraged to suspend this rule as soon as possible to take account of the closure of numerous reception points but also to avoid exposing personnel to the coronavirus.
A European coronavirus response platform has been set up to provide information on measures taken at national level by member states in the transport sector by way of a response to the coronavirus epidemic.