Coreper backed Mobility Package I

The Commission will issue a declaration, regretting that the political agreement includes elements that are not in line with the Green Deal

Photo: EU Timo Harakka

The Council’s Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) approved a set of proposals on drivers’ working conditions, special posting rules for drivers in international transport, access to the haulage market, and improved enforcement. The so called Mobility Package I is sharply contested by the six countries most affected by its provisions - Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania Romania and Poland. 

A provisional agreement was reached between the Council presidency and the European Parliament on 11 December.

According to Timo Harakka, Finland’s Minister for Transport and Communications, the rules endorsed today are clear, fair and enforceable. They will improve working and social conditions for drivers, in a profession that needs to become more attractive, he said adding that at the same time, “we are creating more harmonised and stable business conditions for transport companies, many of which are SMEs.” Smoother procedures and more uniform enforcement will make life easier for drivers, businesses and national authorities, he urged.

The rules on maximum work and minimum rest times for drivers will remain unchanged, but a degree of flexibility will be introduced in the organisation of work schedules for drivers in international freight transport to enable them to spend more time at home. Drivers will also have the right to return home every three or four weeks, depending on their work schedule.

At least 45 hours the regular weekly rest period must be spent outside the vehicle, the new rules foresee.  If this rest period is taken away from home, the accommodation must be paid for by the employer.

Although the regular weekly rest period cannot be taken in a parking area, the EU will promote the construction and use of safe and secure parking areas. The Commission will develop standards and a certification procedure for such parking areas through secondary legislation. It will also create a website to make it easier to find these areas.

With regard to rules on transport operations carried out within a national market outside a transport operator’s own country (‘cabotage’), the current system allowing a maximum of 3 operations in 7 days will remain unchanged. To prevent systematic cabotage, a ‘cooling-off’ period of 4 days will be introduced before further cabotage operations can be carried out in the same country using the same vehicle. A member state may apply these same rules to road legs of combined transport in its territory.

On the posting of drivers, the general rule will be that if an operation is organised in such a way that the link between the driver’s work and the country of establishment remains intact, the driver will be excluded from posting rules. This means that bilateral transport operations are explicitly excluded. On the way to the destination country and on the way back, one additional activity of loading and/or unloading goods is permitted in both directions without falling under the posting regime, or there may be zero activity on the way out and up to two activities permitted on the way back. Transit is also excluded. For all other types of operations, including cabotage, the full posting regime will apply from the first day of the operation. Similar rules will apply to the carriage of passengers, with one additional stop during bilateral operations. The posting rules will also create a unified control standard, based on a communication tool developed by the Commission, to which the transport operator can send its posting declarations directly.

The rules on access to the European road haulage market, as well as driving and rest-time rules, will be extended to cover vans used in international transport (light commercial vehicles of over 2.5 tonnes), with a transition period of 21 months for market supervision, and until the middle of 2026 for tachograph and rest‑time rules.

The Finnish Presidency explained that to combat the phenomenon of ‘letterbox companies’, the reform tightens the link between the transport operator’s place of establishment and its activities. “To ensure that the link is genuine, trucks in international transport will have to return to the company’s operational centre at least once every eight weeks. This eight-week period is designed to allow drivers to return home, together with the vehicle, at the end of their second four-weekly work cycle.”

One key element for improving enforcement is having a reliable way to register when and where the truck has crossed a border and to localise loading and unloading activities. The second version of the smart tachograph will do all this automatically. It will be introduced in three different stages for vehicles carrying out international transport. New trucks will have to be fitted with this device in 2023; those vehicles which have an analogue or digital tachograph will have to be retrofitted by the end of 2024; and those equipped with a ‘version 1’ smart tachograph, in 2025.

To improve cross-border monitoring of compliance, the text also modernises the rules for information sharing and administrative cooperation between member states.

The rules in the posting and market access proposals (including the rule on the return of trucks) will become applicable 18 months after the entry into force of the legal acts. The rules in the driving times proposal (including the return of drivers) will apply 20 days after publication, with the exception of the special deadlines for tachographs.

The agreed text will now undergo legal and linguistic finalisation. It must then be formally adopted, first by the Council and then by the Parliament in an early second reading.

Earlier this week the College of Commissioners took note of the agreement between the European Parliament and the Council on the Mobility Package, following last week's trilogue.  As Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President, said on Tuesday, the Commission will issue a declaration, regretting that the political agreement reached by the Council and European Parliament includes elements that are not in line with the ambitions of the European Green Deal.

“These are the compulsory return of the vehicle to the Member state of establishment every eight weeks and restrictions imposed on combined transport operations. These measures were not part of the original Commission proposal and were not subject to the impact assessment. The obligation of the return of the track will lead to inefficiencies in the transport system and the increase of unnecessary emissions, pollution and congestion, while the restriction on combined transport will diminish its effectiveness to support multi-model freight operations. So the Commission will now closely assess the climate, environmental and Single market functioning impact of those two aspects. After the impact assessment, the Commission, if necessary, will exercise its right to come forward with a targeted legislative proposal before the two provisions enter into force,” Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis stated.

 

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