FREIGHT TRAFFIC AND ROADSIDE CHECKPOINTS ON THE RISE!
Fundings are dropping as the transport sector looks to the government
Numbers, all the numbers and nothing but numbers: some positive, whether they relate to the growth of freight traffic on national roads, or the reduction of accidents, or a significant growth of roadside checkpoints for transport vehicles. But negative ones too, showing a drastic cut in resources for the road transport sector that threatens to turn an already hot summer into a scorching one. Numbers that confirm the complexity of the Italian road freight sector.
Now let us take a closer look at these numbers: from January to March 2015, accidents dropped by 5,7% while freight traffic rose by 1,5% with heavy duty vehicles scoring the most encouraging figures (+2%) compared to light transport vehicles (+1,3%). These numbers were supplied by the Continental research center after processing data from Aiscat – Italian Association monitoring motorways and tunnel concessionaries – which show a slight trend reversal in our Country, probably fuelled by a renewed confidence in an economic recovery.
As freight traffic grows, so do roadside checkpoints: 311,900 checks were carried out by traffic officers on heavy transport vehicles during 2014, 10% more compared to the 283,286 in 2013. Of these 87, 1% (271,795) affected Italian registered vehicles, 11.4% (35,593) EU vehicles and 1.5% (4,602) non-EU vehicles.
However, if we focus on specific geographic areas, we realize that numbers change. In the North of the country, for example, foreign vehicles subjected to roadside checks were many more compared to the South. To be precise, adding EU and non-EU vehicles, a figure of 24.2% is reached. Almost double compared to the 12.9% at national level.
What was the outcome of these roadside checks? Even in this case the nationality of the vehicles plays a key role. For example, breach of administrative regulations is hardly reported among Italian transporters, weighing about 1% of total infringements, while rising to 6% for EU transporters and an amazing 18% for non-EU vehicles. The most common infringement, as far as the latter category is concerned, being the lack of proper permits, while 116 cases related to illegal cabotage.
Not many, to be honest, but what needs to be underscored is that the legislation that has imposed the burden of proof, about the regularity of cabotage operations, directly on the driver came into force only in November. In fact - as Federtrasporti explained from the pages of "Uomini e Trasporti" - police officers emphasized that this new provision will make their work much easier and the number of reported infringements would growth as a consequence.
On the other hand, violations of the rules on driving hours are as follows: 24% by Italian drivers, 37% by EU drivers and 28% by non-EU drivers. But these figures take into account only roadside checks performed on motorways. While statistics show a consistent growth of violations confirmed also by the municipal police, especially in certain areas.
Furthermore, the National Register of Road Hauliers’ Central Committee has equipped many traffic patrols with a Police Controller, a software that allows, after downloading data directly from the vehicle’s tachograph, to identify all offenses committed within the last 28 days, and to verify whether any recorded data has been tampered with.
Switching to government policies, the question is: “What is the Government doing on behalf of transport companies?” Drastic cuts inflicted to flat-rate deductions for transport companies are causing - as expected - a whirlwind of reactions. Bartolomeo Giachino, former Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport, is highly critical of the fact that, “in a country like Italy, where delays in infrastructural and rail freight policies result in 90% of all goods being transported by trucks, government cuts will hit small owner-operators and small transport companies first, already damaged by unfair competition from larger carriers".
Giachino continues, "cutting off funds of undocumented expenses, endangering 62,000 registered owner-operators who will not receive the DURC (statement of compliance to welfare contribution obligations) is a serious error, an error to be avoided at all costs, especially as it is likely to have an enormous impact on our economy at a time when everything possible should be done to make it grow".
Next up, the president of Fai-Conftrasporto, Paolo Uggè, who emphasizes that, to promote the growth of transport operators and the sector as a whole, "it is necessary to maintain the allotted resources for investment, reducing reductions to a minimum, if the much desired renewal of the national running fleet with safer and “greener” vehicles is to be ensured". Uggè hopes that Minister Delrio "will consider restructuring government interventions to find additional resources for undocumented expenses, so as not to penalize those who, even if owners of a single vehicle, have invested on safety and environmental awareness, compared to those who have not".
Transport and social dumping: beware of unfair competition
"In principle, we are not opposed to a single transport market, provided it is characterized by a gradual confluence of costs, taxation policies and social laws within the Union States", explains Florence Berthelot, delegate general of FNTR ( French National Federation of Transporters ). "Our members do not ask for a restriction on the free movement of goods, but they do want to work on an equal footing with their competitors". A delegation of the Italian Hauliers Federation (Conftrasporto) and the French FNTR met Inge Bernaerts and Eddy Liégeois in Brussels, as representatives of the European Commission for Social Affairs and Transport, presenting a set of common demands aimed at eliminating unfair competition caused by road cabotage and driver relocation.
The two associations have drawn up a common document on crime prevention in the transport sector within the EU. The paper describes the main issues and makes some demands in order to resolve them. The document was delivered yesterday in Brussels to Inge Bernaerts, European Commissioner for Social Affairs, and Eddy Liégeois, Head of Land Transport of the Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport.
Key demands concern the establishment of a European road transport agency, responsible for verifying the application and interpretation of EU rules within the Union States and the creation of a special regime for "highly mobile workers" (ie International drivers). A further proposal related to the creation of a European road transport register, to help monitor the implementation of social rules, which, in the meantime must be standardized, particularly in relation to social insurance and pension schemes as well as the introduction of exceptions to Regulation 883 / 2004 on social security to allow, in case of posted international drivers, to pay social security contributions in the host country of the worker. In addition, both associations believe that regulations on access to the market and the profession need to be strengthened and further clarification on regulations for posted workers is needed, especially during road cabotage operations.