Ethical issues for the road transport sector

Ethics! This seems to be the key word behind the latest regulatory requirements on road haulage both nationally and in Europe. If, on the one hand, the European Union tightens the screw on proofs of repute for companies in the sector, on the other, the Supreme Court confirms the crime of tampering with tachographs. Let's start from Italy: basically, on numerous occasions traffic patrols who detect tampering with tachographs - from the simple application of a magnet to the use of sophisticated electronic cards - do not only issue monetary sanctions provided for by the Highway Code, but also apply the Criminal Code, filing reports on the basis of Article 437, i.e. the one concerning the 'wilful removal or omission of precautions against accidents at work'. In fact, several appeals have been made in the past on whether tachograph tampering should be legitimately considered a crime or not, and in each case the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the legitimacy in 2016 in 2017 and in 2019. Despite these three decisions, the Supreme Court had to face yet another appeal, concerning the one-year, one-month, and twenty-day prison sentence issued by the Court of Appeal, and the judges of the first section of the Criminal Court issued sentence number 40187 on 25 October 2022, which once again confirmed the legitimacy of criminal sentences on tampering with the tachograph. The judges confirmed that the tachograph is “a device by its nature intended for the prevention of accidents during work”. Therefore, “the employer who imposes the alteration of a device intended for the prevention of accidents is liable for the offence referred to in Article 437 of the Criminal Code, given that such conduct falls within the typical provision of 'removal', as removal can also be understood as the activity aimed at frustrating the correct functioning of the device”. The judges also clarified that there is no "speciality issues" between Article 179 of the Highway Code and Article 437 of the Criminal Code "given the diversity not only and not so much of the protected legal assets - respectively constituted by road traffic safety and the safety of workers - but above all of the structural nature of the two cases". While in Italy, the screw is being tightened on safety issues, the European Union is following the same path on requirements of good repute, which is crucial to receive and maintain the necessary authorisations for road haulage on behalf of third parties.  It does so with a new regulation amending the 2016 regulation on serious infringements that can lead to the loss of the needed licences. The new rules apply immediately in all EU countries, without having to be transposed into national laws. The list of new serious infringements covers three topics: rest times, tachographs and road cabotage.

About rest time rules, the list of serious infringements has been extended to include the failure to take a compensatory rest period after two consecutive reduced weekly rest periods; the regular weekly rest period spent in the cab; the failure to contribute to the cost of accommodating the driver when he cannot take rest in the cab; and the failure to organise the drivers' regular return to their place of residence. With regard to the tachographs, the Regulation adds three scenarios: failure to use, or incorrect use of, the symbol for ferries or trains, in the case of combined transport; failure to enter information on the record sheet; and failure to indicate in the records the symbol of the country where the journey began and ended as well as border crossings. Furthermore, three new situations have been added as causes of a serious breach of good repute in the case of road cabotage. The first concerns cabotage operations that does not comply with the rules of the host country; second, failure to comply with the four days cooling-off period which applies each time a cabotage operation is completed and the vehicle leaves the host Member State, regardless of whether only one or more cabotage operations have been performed before the vehicle leaves the Member State in question; and third, when "the haulier is unable to produce clear evidence of the previous international carriage and/or any cabotage transport operation he has carried out thereafter and/or all the transport operations carried out when the vehicle is in the host Member State during the four-day period preceding the international carriage, nor to produce such evidence during a roadside check". The Regulation stipulates that three serious infringements committed by the same vehicle in one year become a very serious infringement and three very serious infringements committed by the same vehicle in one year will start the national procedure on the good repute of the transport company in question, with the concrete risks losing its operational capacity in the absence of this vital requirement.

News relates also to the digital road waybill.  Unioncamere recently announced that it has completed the testing phase of the e-Cmr, i.e. the digital form of the road transport waybill. Five hauliers were involved, who carried out a total of one hundred international transports using both paper and digital waybills, in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Switzerland.  During the test regular discussions were held between the project participants and real-time monitoring of the operations, in order to assess the advantages and disadvantages of e-Cmr compared to the traditional waybill. For example, it was noted that staff must be more familiar with electronic tools and there must be seamless integration with the companies' IT systems. "As a result of the various pilot tests carried out, several companies pointed to the importance of greater interoperability between the different platforms available on the market or, alternatively, the identification of a single platform," explains Antonello Fontanili, Director of Uniontrasporti, who goes on to explain: "Transport companies also need to develop a greater digital culture, becoming familiar with electronic devices in order to speed up and improve the exchange of information between the actors involved during operations. The electronic waybill - in our opinion - represents a great opportunity to modernise and improve the quality of logistics, not only for transport companies but also for manufacturing companies, which, in fact, are showing a particular interest in this solution”. The trial was carried out with the technical support of Uniontrasporti and the collaboration of five companies that used the e-Cmr on some of their trips: Arcese, Barbiero, Fercam Logistics & Transport, Riva Logistics & Service and Rutilli Autotrasporti. Technical solutions were provided by Accudire, Pionira and Transfollow, based in Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands respectively. The next step will be to analyse the data collected during the trial in order to define the benefits of the electronic waybill and set the guidelines for its implementation.