The European Parliament adopted the new rules on road freight transport provided for in the first part of the Mobility Package. The rule on rest times will be applied within a short time-frame. For the other provisions, they will become applicable within 18 months of the legislation entering into force.
A period of three years has been necessary to bring about the transformation of the legislative framework for European Road Freight Transport (RFT), wished for by the Commission. By approving without amendement, on the night of the 8th to 9th of July 2020, the three legislative acts on RFT adopted by the EU ministers in April 2020, the European Parliament is truly initiating the process of bringing these texts into force.
This first part of the Mobility Package had the stated ambition of improving working conditions for drivers and reducingdistortion of competition. The adopted texts will notably modify:
- Rules regarding driving and rest times and use of tachographs
- Conditions for posting of drivers
- Rules relating to access to the profession and to the market
The adopted rules will enter into force after their publication in the EU's Official Journal which is due to take place in the coming weeks. On the first point, the transition will be short since the rules on rest times, including driver returns, will apply 20 days after the publication of the act. On the other points, the rules will apply 18 months after the entry into force of the legislative acts.
The main measures
On the first point, the new regulation establishes the obligation to allow drivers in the international freight transport sector to return home at regular intervals. However, there remains a significant point of ambiguity: drivers can either return to an operational center of the transport company in its Member State of establishment or their place of residence. They are in theory free to choose where to spend their rest time but in fact, some fear that drivers will be strongly encouraged to return to an operational center rather than actually return to their homes.
The text also stipulates that normal weekly rest cannot be taken in the truck's cab. Consequently, if this rest time is not taken at the place of residence, the company must pay accommodation costs. On this point, the major difficulty comes from the crucial lack of “safe and secure parking areas that provide appropriate levels of security and appropriate facilities”. The Commission is responsible for developing standards which “should contribute to promoting high-quality parking areas”.
Road transport will be integrated into the Posting of Workers Directive, but with specific provisions allowing for the “extremely mobile” nature of the workforce. " Posting rules will apply to cabotage and international transport operations, excluding transit, bilateral operations and bilateral operations with two extra loading or unloading", specifies a press release from the Parliament published after the vote. Parliament welcomes the fact that these rules also apply to third countries.
In this area, the legislator first planned to tackle the problem 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 also specify that trucks will have to return to the company's operational center every eight weeks. A point that has caused some gnashing of teeth on the side of the European Commission. “The social improvements of the Mobility Package I are significant, and to this end, I welcome the Parliament's vote. But the Commission regrets that the new set of rules includes elements that are possibly not in line with the European Green Deal's ambitions and the objective of achieving a climate-neutral EU by 2050. This is particularly true for the compulsory return of the vehicle to the Member State of establishment every 8 weeks and the restrictions imposed on combined transport operations.” Was the reaction of the European Commissioner for Transport, Adina- Ioana Vălean. The Commission had already expressed reservations on these two points in a communication published in May 2020. Main argument put forward: these provisions would harm the objectives of reducing pollution, the compulsory return of vehicles notably generating empty mileage. The Commission is currently undertaking an impact study and reserves the right to propose a new targeted legislative proposal before these two provisions enter into force. This has been well received by certain Eastern European countries, which were fiercely opposed to the Mobility Package 1 and now believe they have lost the battle. It must be said that these measures will weigh heavily on the operating costs of carriers from these countries, as has been shown in the case of Poland in a study by the consultancy firm Pwc Poland.
In the chapter on fighting unfair competition, the legislator also acted by deciding to subject light commercial vehicles weighing more than 2.5 tonnes to a certain number of rules, starting with the installation of a tachograph
Finally, in order to prevent systematic cabotage, a "cooling-off period" of four days will be introduced before other cabotage operations can be carried out in the same country with the same vehicle.
At a press conference organized on July 9th after the European Parliament's vote, the rapporteurs of the various texts indicated that the European Commission would publish guidelines in the fall to further clarify a certain number of points.