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18/05/2020
Road haulage ensured the survival of families

Road haulage

 

The “Cura Italia” Decree provided for a series of compensatory, fiscal and administrative measures, as well as other instruments

Paolo Castiglia

Just like the turn of a millennium, of a historical era, there is a "pre" and a “post” Coronavirus, and things will no longer be the same. We are experiencing a dramatic transition in our lives, in society in general, and in the global economy following the pandemic that kicked off in China. As things stand, describing the effects of all this will be far from easy. Trucking and Corona Virus. Let us start at the end. Precisely from the last decree issued by the Government headed by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte with the aim of helping the country cope with the crisis. The law has a medical name, "Cura Italia", and includes both health and economic measures to support families, workers and businesses affected by the Covid-19 emergency. The law intervenes in several areas with measures of significant interest also for the transport sector, at least in this first phase, aimed at safeguarding the company cash flows and regulate the employer/employee relationship for the continuation of the emergency.

At the moment of writing, the 25 billion euro provided for in the decree, allocate 3.5 billion to health and civil protection, 10 billion to support employment and workers, with the addition of a substantial expenditure forecast until 2023 to meet the suspension of the obligation to pay for charges and contributions. In addition, provisions have been made to support the credit system that will allow the suspension of mortgages and loan instalments and extend financing. Support also for the transport and logistics sector, included among the supply chains listed as beneficiaries in art. 58, who will benefit from a suspension of the obligation to pay VAT, withholding of income tax and social security contributions, until 31 May. The "Cura Italia" also provides for other measures in favour of the road transport sector, such as the extension of the deadlines for MOT inspections, and for maritime transport.

The President of Confetra, Guido Nicolini, on the subject of this regulatory intervention, commented: "Minister Gualtieri was clear: the logistics and road haulage sectors are among the most immediately affected by the emergency. Therefore, it will benefit from the compensatory, fiscal and administrative measures and the facilitation instruments provided for by the Decree. The extension of the redundancy fund to these sectors was also decisive: we want to go through this dramatic crisis without laying off a single worker".

"I also read - continued Nicolini - of other measures to support ports and a more flexible and functional organization of road transport. Minister De Micheli respected the political commitments made with the categories. Let it be clear, these are early measures designed to keep the sectors afloat. The page of recovery and development has still to be written. But it is important, however, in the drama that we are experiencing, to have affirmed a principle of industrial politics and culture: logistics and freight transport are a vital priority for the country and its productive system".

No one can deny the vital role played by the transport sector, confirmed Paolo Uggè, president of Fai-Conftrasporto, who clearly stated this in an open letter to the Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte who says "heartfelt thanks to the doctors, nurses and truck drivers who haven’t stopped. Thanks to them we have medicines, medical instruments and food".

"Health personnel, law enforcement officers and the army deserve to be put in the front row - writes the representative of the sector again - but another category earned every one’s appreciation. The many transport operators and especially truck drivers. Without their commitment, the needed supplies would not be made available and most citizens would remain without basic necessities, such as medicines, hospitals without oxygen tanks, blast furnaces would be shut down and the companies that are still producing would remain without the possibility of operating".

"As in often happens in times of disasters - concluded Uggè in his letter – they are the first to rush where the need is greater and today they are keeping the country up and running. In exchange, however, these tireless operators are prevented, after 6 p.m., from finding open service stations where they can eat a hot dish or buy a sandwich or even satisfy personal hygiene or physiological needs. You, Mr. Prime Minister, will have certainly realised something indisputable. Without road haulage, Italy is at a standstill! We are certain you will acknowledge this fact and, I hope you will take it into account when you will identify further measures necessary to support the initiatives that the Government intends to take".

For its part, the association Trasportounito, in the middle of the Coronavirus emergency, sounded the alarm against a gradual stop of the vehicles and the growing complications that do not allow the smooth running of all the activities. "Many drivers refuse to work both for fear of contagion - explained Maurizio Longo, Secretary General of Trasportounito - and for the scarce availability of the necessary basic services for drivers, such as the prohibition to access toilets and catering centres; ports and loading/unloading centres are now inaccessible, with vehicles forced to stop for hours and therefore suffer unsustainable economic burdens. Border crossings (Austria, Slovenia) have turned into nightmares; in many cases the vehicles wait with goods on board because they have not been allowed to offload, due to sudden strikes or lack of protective equipment; truck MOT inspections have been cancelled or postponed, and therefore thousands of vehicles are out of action pending the inspection".

These are only the most evident cases. The result is a surge in tension and stress within the world of road haulage, hence the risk - concludes Maurizio Longo, Secretary General of Trasportounito - of a technical stoppage that would block the entire logistics and distribution chain of the country, certainly not due to any fault or irresponsible behaviour by the road haulage sector".

 

 

DIFFICULTIES IN INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORT

As if the difficulties at the Brenner Pass were not enough, the Covid-19 emergency created further problems on the borders with Slovenia and Croatia, as they added their 'blocks' to those already implemented by Austria. Thus, goods for basic necessities arrived at destination after many difficulties. On this problem, back in the middle of March, the National Confederation of Transport Companies wrote to the European Commission and the Italian Government calling for action in accordance with the principle of free movement of goods in Europe. "The reports that we are receiving from our hauliers are alarming. We bring to your attention the current situation and the serious problems that are affecting the road transport sector following the health emergency linked to Covid-19 outbreak within the Union and in particular at the borders with Austria, Slovenia and Croatia - we read in the letter sent to the EU and the Italian Government -. While the generalised sensitivity to the health crisis on the part of some Member States can be understood, it is unacceptable that such practices affect the free movement of goods and the freedom to provide services in an uneven and unilateral manner, preventing or making the movement of transport vehicles to and fro Italy extremely laborious".

 

"To date - continues the letter - control authorities in some Member States have put in place measures of prohibition or complex controls at the border with Italy making it extremely difficult if not impossible for transporters to cross the border or reach their national territories. All this is in blatant contradiction with the fundamental freedoms of the Union and of the text based on the free movement of goods; free movement of persons; freedom to provide services; free movement of capital. These principles are governed by the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union ("TFEU"), non-compliance with which constitutes a breach of Union law laid down in that Treaty. We therefore call for your urgent action to raise awareness among the Member States to prevent the adoption of unilateral measures that harm businesses, citizens and, ultimately, European unity".

 

 

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