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04/09/2018
Mobility package: the eu parliaments suspends works

Road Transport

 

The text was returned to the Commission with changes to the rules on driving times, road cabotage and transnational posting

Paolo Castiglia

The long awaited road haulage revolution has been placed on standby: on July 4th the plenary session of the European Parliament postponed the text of the first Mobility Package with a number of changes on the rules on driving times, road cabotage and the transnational posting, and returned it to the Transport Commission to be modified.

MEPs rejected the proposed amendments to the first European Package submitted by the European Commission and approved by the Transport Commission (Tran) of the European Parliament.

The whole text will thus go back to the Commission to find a new compromise, different from the one approved last June which provoked outraged protests by trade unions on new driving time rules and resting periods, by East European firms on the proposed changes to the trans-national posting of drivers as well as West European companies (on changes to road cabotage).

The passing of the Mobility Package in this legislature is at risk, as the Parliament will be dissolved next year, when new Members will be re-elected in June. This means that the Transport Commission is called upon to quickly find a new compromise on what should have been, and perhaps will still be, a revolution in road haulage and a hard blow to those who engage in dumping practices, especially from Eastern Europe.

What did the first draft, now returned to the commission, contain? As far as transnational posting of drivers the proposal was based on the principle of "equal pay for the same job". And on cabotage, the driver who delivers goods to another member state after a cross-border delivery, should receive the same economic treatment set for drivers in the host country. All this to combat illegal practices in road transport and help improving the working conditions of drivers.

These were some of the rules approved, at the beginning of summer, by the European Union Transport Commission (Tran), which represent a part of the 'Mobility Package'. To become law, the text approved by the Transport Commission needs to obtain the approval of the Parliament's plenary session, which did not happen in the first draft and will have to be further discussed with the Council of Transport, the body that includes the direct representatives of the different Governments within the EU.

In order to prevent transnational driver posting from becoming a form of labour exploitation and discourage irregular road cabotage the text, that must now be ratified, provided for high penalties for those employers who forced their drivers to spend their regular weekly rest, which the European social regulation 561/2006 sets as an uninterrupted period of 45 hours, inside the cabin. Furthermore, the law aims to combat social dumping, that is the use through "temporary employment agencies", often established exclusively for this purpose, of non-resident foreign workers, with the sole purpose of making a saving in terms of costs and social security contributions in force in the country where the driver is actually working compared to those in the country in which the worker is said to reside.

However, the Commission had voted against the extension of this obligation to international transport, which remains completely subject to the economic conditions set by the country in which the driver is actually hired. MEPs also proposed changes to ensure better resting conditions for drivers. For example, if approved after the commission’s review, companies will have to organize their schedules so that drivers can return home or another place of their choice for a weekly rest once every three weeks.

For more flexibility, MEPs have additionally planned that drivers can complete their return journey if they are close enough to the base of operations, provided that a further resting period is added as compensation.

The project also aimed at intensifying roadside inspections and checks, as well as speeding up cooperation between national authorities against frauds on driving time, rest periods, cabotage and driver posting. Addressing the issue of letterbox companies – i.e. companies set up in a member state with more lenient tax rules while the main business is conducted in another state - companies would be forced to have a tangible presence in the country where they are registered.

 The European Confederation of Transport Unions ETF had previously published on May 4, between the approval by the Tran Commission and the parliamentary rejection, a harsh note against the text, with specific reference to driving time, rest periods and driver posting.

The statement said that "the Committee's amendments to the EU mobility package would confirm the exclusion of road operators from these new directive on posted workers - denying drivers the right to fair economic treatment when crossing the border. This would also mean less resting time each month, with employers justified in keeping their drivers on duty for three weeks with no more than a 24 hours rest. The risk of fatigue-related accidents are quite obvious".

Furthermore, the unions claimed that the text represents a step back on the issue of weekly rest in the cabin. In Italy, Fit Cisl national secretary, Maurizio Diamante, used equally harsh tones: "The European Transport Commission overwhelmingly voted in favour of a disgraceful measure, one that goes against all the values on which Europe itself was founded. Thus, from now on, the Commission will be responsible for any future road accidents caused by fatigue. We are going to react to this injustice as soon as possible, protesting both nationally and at European level along with other Etf members and other affiliated unions". But as for now, following the texts rejection, things are on hold.

 

ROAD TRANSPORT AND FUEL PRICES

According to a study by Confartigianato Trasporti, last year was characterized by a diesel price hike. In May 2018, diesel price was 607 euro per 1,000 litres and grew by 17.2% compared to the same month one year earlier. On average, over the last 12 months (June 2017-May 2018) the price of diesel was 534 euro per 1,000 litres, up 9.4% compared to 488 euro per 1,000 litres on average over the previous 12 months (June 2016-May 2017). On a taxation level, in 2017 excise taxes on fuel - according to Istat's accounts – brought 26,098 million euro in the state’s coffers, up by 1.6% compared to the stagnation experienced in 2015-2016 and a decline in the period between 2013-2014.

Based on a survey dated May 28, it is estimated that Italy is the first country among the 28 EU member states when it comes to excise duty on fuel; consequently our country is ranked first in Europe for the cost of fuel paid by transport companies, on average 1,294.2 euro/1000 litres, net of VAT. Currently Italy ranks first in the EU for petrol prices (1,346.3 euro/1000 litres) and second for diesel prices (1,246.9 euro/1000 litres), however following the Brexit, Italy will top the diesel price chart as well.

 

ENVIRONMENT, MOTOR VEHICLE AUTHORITIES AND BRENNER; ALL CRITICAL ISSUES

On the environmental front, Conftrasporto-Confcommercio, in a ministerial meeting, asked the Government to sponsor the development of the LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) supply chain, with favourable start-up taxes, carrying out ad hoc evaluations with other European ports to detect the gaps currently plaguing Italian ports, which are still heavily restraining the development of a traditional marine supply and, consequently, the availability of LNG in our ports.

In addition, according to road haulage associations, it is likewise urgent to sort out, once and for all, our dysfunctional Motor Vehicle Authorities, and support the RoadAlliance agreement in Europe to combat social dumping.

Then there is the question of the Brenner border post, with Austria busy fixing a set number of trucks able to pass from Italy: Conftrasporto asked the ministry to demand respect for the principle of free movement of people and goods. The inspections announced by Austria against illegal immigration would make it impossible for many transporters to deliver their goods on time.

Conftrasporto-Confcommercio - which calculated, on an annual basis, a 370 million euro damage for an hour's delay in crossing the Brenner - proposed, in the event that Austria implements the measures, to create a fast "Shengen-like" corridor allowing fast access to EU transport companies, albeit with random checks.

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