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08/07/2013
MINIMUM COSTS: LAZIO REGIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE COURT ASKS EUROPEAN COURT TO SHED SOME LIGHT

ROAD TRANSPORT
Reference to the Court of Justice of the EU for an interpretation of the regulation on safety costs for road hauliers. The regulation remains in force until the judges in Luxemburg have reached a verdict on this sensitive question

Paolo Castiglia

THE REGIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE Court of Law for Lazio (TAR) has finally made a statement about the appeal proposed by Confindustria and various associations and contractors against the measures adopted in implementation of article 83-bis of Leg. Dec. 112/2008  – which governs the minimum safety costs for road transport – because they are incompatible with the European regulation.
The Italian law remains in force until the judges in Luxemburg reach a verdict on this sensitive question, but after presenting the facts of the case and emphasizing the reasons given by the petitioners, the Court described the Italian regulation on road transport tariffs and the framework of European principles and regulations that appear to be infringed by the national regulation on minimum costs. In support of the petitioners, TAR put forward numerous critical points in the national regulation by making precise references to the principles and rules of European Union law as well as supranational jurisprudence. In particular, the judges doubted that the regulation introduced by art. 83-bis could be considered “congruous and in proportion to the protection of road safety in the public interest such that the said aim of public importance was adequately and sufficiently justified.”  The judges observed that road safety could certainly be protected with “better steps taken with regard to the elements on which safety itself depends” (speed limits, rest periods, obligatory maintenance, fines, checks, etc.).
The statement also said that there are considerable contradictions between the declared purpose of the regulation (road safety) and the possibility envisaged in paragraph 4 of art. 83-bis regarding an exception applied to minimum costs in the case of voluntary agreements between the haulier and the contractor. The judges concluded by observing more generally that “fixing minimum tariffs as a tool for guaranteeing the safe circulation of vehicles is not envisaged by any sector regulation”.
Numerous perplexities were raised also with regard to the regulations on free competition, in that “the authoritative fixing of minimum operating costs in a way that restricts free negotiation between the parties, prevents the determination of a contractual price which is a fundamental element of free market dynamics”. Lastly, the Court observed that the current system envisages that the determination of minimum costs can be entrusted to an entity such as the Road Transport Observatory, “which is mainly composed of people elected by the trade associations”. Referring to a verdict by the Court Of Justice related to obligatory tariffs, TAR doubts the compatibility of a Union law with “a regulatory system that lacks the predetermination of criteria for even generally governing the activity and basically entrusts the determination of minimum tariffs to agreements between private operators or, alternatively, to an entity that is not sufficiently independent with respect to assessing and choosing sector operators”. The Court opted to refer to the Court of Justice of the European Union for an interpretation of the provisions of the Treaties on free competition and free movement of firms and, in particular, on the subject of right of establishment and freedom to provide services, “to clarify whether the said provisions are compatible with fixing minimum operating costs in the road transport sector”.
TAR also asked the Court of Justice whether and under what circumstances the limitations of the said principles are justifiable with respect to the need to protect road safety and if the fixing of minimum operating costs are part of this ratio. Lastly, TAR asked the Court in Luxemburg if the determination of minimum costs could be reinstated as voluntary agreements by the relevant categories of operators or, alternatively, by entities composed mainly of representatives of private sector operators in the absence of predetermined criteria at legislative level.  In view of this request, the Court delayed judgement until the preliminary questions have been defined.
At any rate, TAR did not take an unequivocal and definitive position on the subject of minimum costs as this would have annulled the regulations adopted in implementation of art. 83-bis, which are the subject of the appeal. For procedural correctness, it preferred to put the question to the Court of Justice for its own interpretation of the Italian regulation’s compatibility with European law. The outcome of this will not mean that the regulation on minimum costs is annulled but will continue to be in force, despite the doubts about compatibility raised by TAR.

• Signing of 2013 resource allocations for road transport

Governments change, long-standing regulations change, but road hauliers can rest assured about one thing at least: the Minister for the Economy, Vittorio Grilli, has signed a decree with trade associations for the division of road transport resources (see table) that was expected for some time and the associations were already on the warpath after assurances at the end of last year. The Ministry of Transport was able tell the trade associations that Minister Grilli had signed the inter-ministerial decree on the division of resources for road transport,  which amount to €400 million for 2013. All that is missing now are the implementation decrees.


2013 allocations for road transport
BENEFIT ALLOCATION IN 
MLNS OF EURO
Inail – reduction of premium 91
Reduction compensated by motorway tolls
134
Undocumented expenses 113
Reimbursement of national health contributions on tort liability premiums 22
Training 16
Investments 24
TOTAL 400

 

• Maurizio Lupi is the new Minister for Infrastructures and Transport

Maurizio Lupi has succeeded Corrado Passera at the Ministry for Infrastructures and Transport.  The minister, a representative of the PDI party, appointed the undersecretaries for infrastructures and transport: the Council of Ministers of 2 May 2013 completed the structure of the Government with deputy ministers and undersecretaries. The new deputy minister for infrastructures and transport is Vincenzo De Luca and the two undersecretaries are Erasmo De Angelis and Rocco Girlanda.

Vincenzo De Luca was born in Ruvo del Monte (Potenza) in 1949 and was a representative of the Democratic Party from 2001 to 2008. However, he is known primarily for his experience as mayor of Salerno, a role to which he was elected four times, the last time in 2011 with 74% of the votes.
Erasmo De Angelis was born in 1955 and is a journalist and expert on environmental matters. He is chairman of the board of directors of Publiacqua, a position that was confirmed last December. Publiacqua SpA handles the integrated water service in a territory that covers four provinces in Tuscany and serves 49 municipalities.
Rocco Girlanda was born in Gubbio in 1966 and is a company director. In 2008 he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies as a member of the Popolo delle Libertà party. He was a candidate also in the 2013 elections, but was not elected. Since January 2013 he has been PdL coordinator for the region of Umbria. Professionally, he is the managing director of a company that publishes some of the local newspapers in the centre of Italy. From 2009 to 2011 he was the president of Fondazione Italia-USA.

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