National contract, fair compensation and environmental challenges land on the post-covid scene

From a new collective contract to fair compensation for transporters, to environmental challenges. These are the issues the road haulage sector has been facing during this difficult period. Starting with the collective contract, it must be said that road haulage trade associations along with the employers' associations and with Fit-Cgil, Fit-Cisl and Uil Trasporti, signed the new national collective labour agreement for logistics, freight and shipping following the expiration of the old contract on December 31, 2019, which will have a validity of 4 years and 3 months. The renewal defines an important postponement of the contractual expiration to March 31, 2024. This is a solution negotiated by the parties in view of the uncertainties arising from the current emergency.

At the end of a dispute that lasted for a year and a half, the negotiation that led to the signing of the agreement has seen quite a few critical issues being debated between the parties. "The negotiations for the renewal of the contract - says Amedeo Genedani, president of Confartigianato Trasporti - took place in the midst of a pandemic during which the road haulage sector, despite the enormous difficulties, proved to be essential for the country's stability and the wellbeing of the population ensuring the supply of essential goods".

The agreement that was signed is purely economic in nature and strengthens its value in favour of the category. "This agreement, which we have strongly pursued - continues Genedani on behalf of road transport associations - has the merit of certifying the role of the national collective labour agreement as an instrument designed to protect and guarantee fair treatment for both companies and workers. The new contract, together with the shared communication to be addressed to the Institutions and the permanent Observatory on the trend of the sector, represent a fundamental step through which we want to modernize the sector and encourage the flexibility and competitiveness of our national SMEs". Equally important is the touchy subject of fair compensation for road haulage. Paolo Uggè, president of Conftrasporto-Confcommercio underlined the importance to pursue the matter with the institutions.

Recently, Labour Minister Andrea Orlando advocated for a resumption of the dialogues. "It is through the fair recognition of fixed costs that greater security is achieved, and the right value is assigned to the sacrifices made by many small operators. This is not only a jurisdictional principle - explained Uggè - but a response that enhances the entire world of smaller businesses. According to hauliers, this is a strong lever to avoid exploitation: "After a difficult phase, the NRP is certainly an exceptional tool, but it must be accompanied by the necessary principle of support for the weaker groups in the business world," added the president of Conftrasporto.

"Recognizing the role played by those who contribute to the growth of the country and provide job opportunities for young people becomes the strongest lever to generate growth, and the State has the duty to pursue and protect this goal to avoid the development of a market in which exploitation is the master", Uggè concluded. Next issue on the table, and one that will be discussed for a long time, is the challenge to achieve carbon neutrality in road freight transport by 2050. The commitment of the position paper of European truck manufacturers Acea - European automobile manufacturers' association - focuses on low-emission and above all zero-emission vehicles: their number and range will increase rapidly in the coming years. However, they explain, the infrastructure needed to refill these trucks is almost completely absent. And the revision of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive (Afid) represents a crucial opportunity to establish dedicated and binding infrastructure targets at European and national level for low- and zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles.

"Afid needs to be reviewed to consider the requirements of heavy-duty vehicles and to facilitate the rapid implementation of a dense charging and refuelling network in all European member states," the manufacturers explain, "and should set a target of 10,000-15,000 public and destination charging points with higher power by 2025 and 40,000-50,000 charging points by 2030. In addition, a goal of at least 40,000 low-power (100 kW) public overnight chargers in truck stops along motorways should be set by 2030."

To ensure that the necessary number of charging points are available by 2025 and 2030 in all EU member states, binding targets should then be set for each member state according to the proposed protocol. In addition, according to the manufacturers, an additional target of about 300 truck-friendly hydrogen refuelling stations by 2025 and at least 1,000 by 2030 should be set. By 2030, one hydrogen refuelling site should be available every 200 km on the core TEN - T (Trans-European Transport Network) network. A truck-friendly hydrogen refuelling station should have a minimum daily capacity of at least six tons of H2 with at least two pumps per station. 

On this point, vehicle manufacturers and environmentalists seem to have found a meeting point: if we want to realistically pursue the Green Deal goals set by 2050, we need concrete actions that will create the conditions to promote the use of vehicles with low environmental impact to substitute them by 2050 with zero-emission vehicles. Because without investments in infrastructures - and at the moment electric truck recharges are practically non-existent – transport companies keen in investing in vehicles with this type of power supply do not have the conditions to do so.

It is not by chance that both the automotive industry and the environmentalist world are forwarding this request before the revision, expected by 2025, of the European Directive 2014/94/EU on the infrastructure for alternative fuels, in order to include trucks and buses within the scope of this regulatory act. Second goal will be to establish binding targets for individual states regarding the construction of charging infrastructure, within warehouses, logistics hubs, public areas and motorways, which can accommodate the suitable recharging stations and space requirements of heavy-duty vehicles.  All topics that the European Commission must address in the Dafi Directive. "And this is precisely why the Dafi directive - as stated by Acea president Martin Daum - is a golden opportunity to ensure that infrastructure deployment and zero-emission vehicle deployment walk hand in hand."