Competition is good, right? Well not according to nine countries who have set up a road freight alliance to defend against what they see as unfair competition from other EU countries.

European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc is seeking to establish “an integrated Single European Transport Area (SETA)”, the initiatives due this Spring.

Ministers from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and Norway have drawn up proposals that, they say, would fight social dumping in the road freight industry by harmonising and strengthening legislation with regards to driving and rest periods.

Bulc claims “Diverging national rules create confusion among transport operators and drivers and lead to higher compliance costs”.

The suggested focus would be on cabotage, where some member states have begun to introduce their own national rules, and so-called ‘letterbox companies’, where certain transport companies have established themselves in very specific countries without any real activity there. Other areas of scrutiny are tachograph fraud, and tighter controls on light vehicles under 3.5 tonnes.

However, the Cleclat European Forwarders alliance are not happy with some of the proposals. One proposal is to ‘encourage’ operators to allow drivers to return to their home base at the weekends. They state that this would reduce the competitiveness of European transport and frustrate ambitions to reduce carbon emissions. Ultimately they claim we would see more empty vehicles on the road

Cleclat also points out that freight forwarders always seek to ensure before contracting a service from a carrier, that rules are being respected, including the legislation with regards to minimum wages and driving and resting times. Director-General Nicolette van der Jagt states “We are worried to see enforcement being replaced more and more by national initiatives and regulation, and an administrative burden on freight forwarders – to the level of taking over the role of enforcement”.

Cleclat do agree on something though, to promote the use of electronic consignment notes (eCMRs) to reduce administrative burden and increase efficiency and effectiveness of controls.

So could we see an eCMR protocol? If the member states can agree we probably will.

All other areas are up for debate though and some of these if pushed through could change the face of European transport, again!

As usual, we’ll keep you informed

The Jordon Team