Mobility Package runs at full steam

EU Commission: The obligation for return of the truck will increase unnecessary emissions, pollution and congestion

Photo: EP The EP Transport and Tourism Committee approved the provisional agreement on Mobility Package I.

The EP Transport and Tourism Committee backed on Tuesday the provisional agreement reached on 20 December last year between EP and Finnish Presidency negotiators on Mobility Package I. 

It covers three legislative files - on posting of drivers, on driving time and rest periods, and on market access and cabotage. The first text received 27 votes in favour, 22 against and no abstentions. The second was approved by 27 votes in favour, 17 against and 5 abstentions, while the third received 32 thumbs-up, 17 were against and no abstentions.

A fierce battle in the Parliament has been fought on these files for nearly three years. The main argument is that the legislation will distort the Single Market and is in a way discriminative to the peripheral countries.

Some of its provisions are in clear contradiction to the goals of the European Green Deal. Most critical is the reaction against the new rules that require trucks to return every eight weeks to the country where the company's operational centre is located and that the drivers in international freight transport should return home at regular intervals of every three or four weeks, depending on the work schedule.

MEPs from the peripheral countries, all from Central and Eastern Europe - Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Hungary, whose road haulage sector would be hit fatally by the provisions of this controversial legislation, pointed out a number of procedural breaches during the first reading vote. Nevertheless, the legislative train is continuing its unhindered run at full steam.

The transport ministers of the countries concerned, in turn, held last year a series of discussions, but the majority in the EP and the Council remained adamant, demonstrating that the interests of the “new countries” can be easily ignored.

The current text of the package has to be approved by the Council and then by the Parliament as a whole to enter into force.

According to the adopted texts, existing limits to cabotage of three operations within seven days will remain in force, but vehicle tachographs will be used to register border-crossings in order to tackle fraud.

A “cooling-off period” of four days is introduced before more cabotage operations can be carried out within the same country with the same vehicle.

In a drive against the use of letterbox companies, road haulage businesses would need to have substantial activities in the Member State in which they are registered.

Operators that are using light commercial vehicles of over 2.5 tonnes to provide international transport services will also be subject to EU norms for transport operators and would need to equip the vans with a tachograph.

MEPs say EU-wide rules on posting of drivers will give a clear legal framework, so that these rules can be easily applied in the highly mobile transport sector, to prevent differing national approaches and ensure fair remuneration for drivers. These rules will apply to cabotage and international transport operations, excluding transit, bilateral operations and bilateral operations with one extra loading or unloading in each direction, which means 'zero on the way out and two on return'.

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.

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

He concretely mentioned 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, he said, adding that the obligation of the return of the truck 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.

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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