ROAD TRANSPORT AND THE DRIVER ISSUE
Tackling wage reductions, shortage of drivers and the loss of profitability
Italian and European trucking is struggling with a very serious problem affecting the very backbone of the industry: drivers. A common complaint at continental level has to do with wage reductions, while companies report a chronic shortage of drivers and a decline in profitability, all against a backdrop of poor standard conditions of competition within the European Union.
Therefore, the road transport union has recently sent to the Ministry of Transport and Labor a few proposals on driver’s working time, in order to change the EU Directive on the subject and promote an improvement in the situation just described.
Unatras found, in fact, that the Directive has caused "negative side effects", precisely wage reductions, shortage of drivers, and a loss of profitability. As reflected in the "illegal outsourcing of drivers and irregular road cabotage". Moreover, "controls are insufficient both on the road, and at company premises".
The most important issues to be addressed are, according to Unatras, cooperation between national authorities to secure the payment of penalties on foreign carriers, a clear explanation of "working time" and "dedicated work time" definitions, the exclusion of self-employed workers from applying the Directive and the exchange of information between EU Member States.
To address these issues, Unatras decided to submit to both the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Labor four proposals. The first aims to create a specific status for mobile workers within the EU borders, a definition that includes drivers working in the international transport sector. This new regime must include an equal minimum wage throughout the EU and a single social security coverage, followed by a mandatory European register containing the names of drivers complying with the new register’s standards of minimum wage and social security. The register should facilitate cross-border controls on fair competition between European companies and protection of workers. The adoption of the register – to be integrated with the NER ( national electronic register ) and the new database of compliance activated by the National Register of Road Haulage - must be one of the requirements for access in the other member countries.
Finally, Unatras asked to introduce an exception to the EU Regulation 883/2004 enforcing a single European social security system in the event of outsourced workers performing road transport activities. A further decisive factor is the establishment of a European road transport agency, which would allow the Union to oversee all aspects of road transport. The agency could also coordinate a strict supervision in the application of EU rules by Member States.
A different topic, but still concerning drivers, is working time: since March, a few paragraphs of the new EU Regulation 165/2014 are in force, modifying the use of tachographs on transport vehicles. A newsletter from the Ministry of Transport clarifies the application of the Article 45, which deals with some exceptions to the mandatory use of this device.
Article 45 of the EU Regulation 165/2014 states that certain types of road transport vehicles are exempted from the obligation to use tachographs and the Ministry of Transport newsletter dated February 27, 2015 provides some useful explanations not only for those who have to carry out road-side inspections, but also for carriers themselves.
The text includes the new paragraph added to the EU Regulation 561/2006, which concerns vehicles (or combinations) with a total weight of up to 7.5 tons and are used for the transportation of materials, equipment or devices necessary for the driver in the exercise of his profession within a radius of a hundred miles from the place where the company is located, provided that driving the vehicle is not the driver's main activity. Meeting these conditions exempt a driver from the use of a tachograph.
The Ministry's newsletter emphasizes that the load must consist in equipment, materials or tools intended for professional use in the driver’s main activity. The text recalls an indication by the European Court of Justice that specifies that the words "material or equipment" also includes "items, such as building materials or cables, necessary for performing the work involved in the driver’s main activity".
The text also specifies that "such an activity does not consist in driving the vehicle and must constitute the main activity of that driver." The Ministry clarifies the situation with the example of a 7.5 ton vehicle of a commercial company that operates within one hundred kilometers and transports goods sold or held for sale. His driver is not exempted from the use of the tachograph, and neither is the driver of a similar vehicle belonging to a small business where the transportation of equipment (or material) meets the needs of other employees of the same company, but not the driver himself. The newsletter also contains an explanation of the tachograph exemption for vehicles, as well as the extension of the exemption from fifty to a hundred kilometers for some categories of transport.
Europe says no to unfair competition
France and Germany react with new agreements against unfair competition from carriers from other EU member states. In Italy the debate is still raging. In France the association of transporters, to counter social dumping, has banned the weekly cabin rest. In Germany, a minimum driver’s wage has been imposed. What is new, however, is that the two associations have created a partnership for action at the highest levels: the goal is to promote joint action at European level. Freedom to provide services and branch openings in a foreign country should be two very distinct operations, as the associations explain. Some foreign companies, as noted, tend to establish their activities in other countries using wage and tax regulations from their country of origin. Associations are proposing inspections on digital tachographs and other documents. Even in Italy associations are proposing legitimate claims. At the end of last month, Conftrasporto and the French Fnte submitted a paper on the shared challenges facing the European transport sector. Here are the proposals and the analysis made by the associations and presented in Brussels: the creation of specific regulations for highly mobile workers including professional drivers to be followed by a compulsory membership in a European transport register to verify compliance with unified social standards, especially rules relating to social security and pension plans; the introduction of an exception to Regulation 883/2004 / EC (rules on coordination of social security) - these rules are in fact easily applicable to “conventional” migrant workers but are not suitable for workers whose profession is characterized by a strong geographical mobility. Finally, the creation of a European road transport agency, which would be responsible for ensuring the application and uniform interpretation of European laws in all Member States.