New rules to boost the sector
Transnational drivers posting, driving time and rest, road cabotage. Three crucial aspects in the daily activities of any road haulier, most of which, as we shall see, are still fighting with a stagnant economy. Three factors that recently came under the magnifying lens of the Labour Commission of the UE Parliament, which discussed and approved several proposals on changes to road haulage laws presented in 2017 by the European Commission, with three important amendments relating specifically to driver posting, maximum working hours and cabotage.
Trade unions and road haulage companies, especially in countries where these issues are particularly felt such as Italy, welcomed the first response of the European Parliament to the changes proposed by the Commission on social dumping.
For now work is still being done within the Commission, but this is a vital step in bringing the text to the Parliament to be voted in a plenary session. The first amendment approved by the Labour Commission concerns the immediate application, also in the trucking world, of the new EU rules on international posting, which states that drivers working in a foreign country should receive the salary of the host country and be subject to the minimum wage laws in that country.
The second amendment concerns reforms to maximum working hours and minimum rest, previously rejected by the Commission, which called for the current legislation to be maintained.
The Commission has additionally confirmed the ban on weekly rest inside the vehicle. The third amendment concerns land cabotage in order to avoid further liberalizations. On the contrary, MEPs have recommended stricter rules, restricting each single driver to only two cabotage transports per month prohibiting a second cabotage in the same country before seven days have elapsed from the first. We should bear in mind, though, that this is only one of the stages on a path of greater reforms in the European Parliament.
Going back to driving and resting time, following the release of a news letter dated April 30, 2018 by the Ministry of the Interior, the issue of resting time to be spent in the cabin has become quite delicate, since the letter states that the regular weekly rest spent on-board a vehicle can hardly be considered rest at all. However, concerns emerged over its concrete application and on the validity of sanctions established by a news letter.
On this issue, Fiap (Italian Road Haulage Association) contacted lawyer Federico Gallo for a comment on the conditions of application of the News Letter which, for the first time, sets the penalty for those who spend regular weekly resting periods in the cabin. In fact, this prohibition has been definitively sanctioned by a sentence of the European Court of Justice, but the Italian Law does not provide for specific penalties. Waiting for National Traffic Code to be updated, the Ministry of the Interior authorized the police to sanction on-board resting periods, between 435 to 1701 euro and the intimation not to resume the journey until the rest is complete, as if the driver had not rested at all.
Fiap, through a legal opinion, points out first of all, that such violations can only be detected on the road and when the driver is actually resting in the cabin, so there cannot be any subsequent verification. At the same time, the lawyer questions the validity of a sanction established by a ministerial News Letter: "In our system, in fact, ministerial news letters are not considered sources of law and are therefore non-binding on both the citizens or the judges in their application. The jurisprudence of legitimacy is consistent in declaring that instructions given by the administration, work only in relation to administrative offices, even during the investigation phase, but cannot influence the judgment of the acts that follow (such as, for example, ascertaining violations of the Traffic Code), when there is a formal act of protest (such as, for example, an appeal before the Justice of the Peace), in which case only the general principles of law are applicable and binding".
Basically, this means that those who are sanctioned can appeal to the Justice of Peace, with the concrete possibility of obtaining a cancellation of the fine. Fiap therefore hopes for a real regulatory update on the matter.
These regulatory issues intersect a very complex scenario, where current revenue trends do not allow for the implementation of compensation measures: revenues have in fact noticeably increased only in those production and commercial entities where cooperative agreements are the norm. In the majority of cases the exact opposite happens: this is testified by the increase of legal expenses, about 60% (equal to 70 million euro a year), incurred by road haulage companies to obtain due payments. "All this translates - says Maurizio Longo, Secretary General of Transporto Unito - in an already unsustainable financial burden, the direct consequence of confused and inconclusive regulatory systems, the absence of any form of rationalization aimed at reducing mileage when travelling empty and an uncontrolled proliferation of road cabotage practices in clear violation of any form of fair competition".
THE EUROPEAN UNION SAYS NO TO INTERNATIONAL MEGA-TRUCKS
We are talking about vehicles that are longer than 25 metres and heavier than 60 tons: the recent trilateral meeting between the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament sanctioned the will to prohibit the use of such vehicles in international road haulage on behalf of a greater development of a combined road-rail transport system.
A similar decision to the one taken by the EU Transport Commission. A part of the road haulage sector is favourable to the use of such mega-trucks - which are currently allowed in some EU countries - claiming that these will ultimately reduce the number of vehicles on the roads despite transport volumes remaining the same, which would also work towards reducing pollution and traffic congestion. On the opposite end of the issue, railway companies claim that mega-trucks would hinder the transfer of goods from road to rail, which is one of the main objectives of EU transport policies. According to a Railway forecast, the spread of these mega-trucks might, in the long run, cause a 3% loss in rail freight quota.
E-COMMERCE LOGISTICS: POSTE ITALIANE NOW IN BUSINESS
Poste Italiane will now deliver parcels every day until evening, Saturdays and Sundays included, and will install automatic collection points in supermarkets and shops. The goal of the National postal service is to transform the job of its thirty thousand employees currently engaged in delivering letters to Italian households, turning them into last-mile e-commerce operators.
The plan emerged during the presentation of the accounts for the first quarter of 2018. A revolution that has already started, as mail carriers have already delivered 50% more parcels over the same period in 2017.
Parcel delivery services is a fast-growing business, and Poste Italiane went from five million items delivered in 2015 to 35 million in 2017. The new program provides for the delivery of parcels up to five kilos - 85% of sales online - until 7.45pm, including Saturdays and Sundays, managing the service to ensure successful deliveries on the first call. Therefore, in the morning calls will be made mainly in office districts, while residential areas will be visited during the afternoons and in the evenings.
The frequency of deliveries will also depend on the density of the population: seven day per-week deliveries will take place in metropolitan areas, which means 600 parcels per day per square kilometre, as well as business networks in urban areas (with 80 parcels per square kilometre), while in rural areas deliveries will take place every other day (10 parcels per square kilometre). The goal is to deliver 50 million parcels this year and progressively reach 100 million by 2022.