Systemic crisis and declining resources
The government's lack of attention is a cause for concern. Appeals made to the EU
Loss of international traffic now reduced to less than 24%. Thousands of small and medium-sized companies have disappeared, and what is more, according to the latest sector analysis, another 20,000 small transporters no longer have the conditions to remain enrolled in the National Register of Hauliers managed by the Ministry of Transport. In addition, Italian hauliers are struggling against the competition of other European players due, in part, to unfair practices such as cabotage. This is why many of the larger companies have transferred all or part of their activities to foreign countries.
An alarming scenario, to say the least, but one that describes the current issues facing the road haulage sector, which is undergoing an unexpected and very serious crisis, and with a Government that, according to the majority of trade associations, has historically failed to define a strategy for the development of road haulage supported by structural interventions aimed at giving concrete impetus to the sector, and even the current Government is showing little attention to the sector, something that is tragically manifested in a series of negative data. The thing that worries most of the operators is that an economic sector strategically important such as road transport, can end up in conditions of extreme weakness in the European arena without anyone to take charge and try to, at least, remedy the situation.
In fact, for thirty years, the decision to spread out thinly the resources made available to road haulage, in an unnecessary attempt to ensure the survival of all the players involve, has led to the disheartening results we see today; at present the country lacks the conditions and the political will to change the course of things and make different choices. "We are looking with extreme concern at the umpteenth cut of funds for investment in favour of other measures not framed in any strategy of productive development - says Franco Fenoglio, president of the Industrial Vehicles Section of Unrae - especially if we consider that the period provided for the submission of applications for funding is drawing to an end, and we still do not even see a ministerial decree for the allocation of resources for 2019, followed by the allocation of funds for investment to different categories of vehicles eligible for funding.
"In addition to all this, hauliers are completely discouraged by the fact that refunds to companies, even those that have regularly submitted applications, are granted very late and often for smaller amounts compared to what indicated in the decrees themselves. In the sector, therefore, it is popular opinion that - under these conditions - the promises of additional funds for the purchase of transport vehicles have very little chance of translating into an effective availability of resources.
Among other things, while the market has been on a downward trend since the last few months of last year, at present there are still no signs of any ministerial activity for the implementation of the regulatory acts necessary to start the financing phase of investments for 2019, while as far as 2018 it was closed last April. The only news on the matter says that the share of the funds dedicated to road haulage for investments has been reduced compared to initial forecasts and amounts now to 25 million. Hence, less resources and discontinuity in their management. It is not surprising, therefore, if companies are showing signs of increasing distrust and postponement of investment. After all, the proposal to allocate 50 million a year for the 2019-2020 period to finance the purchase of new vehicles, has not met with a concrete response or the necessary regulatory measures to find and allocate funds. The fact that the trade associations are once again faced with financial decisions made to simply plug the gaps produced by a physiological lack of political strategy for the sector, rather than changing course and decisively support the development, promoting measures aimed at ensuring the sustainability of the business, provides a further point of friction with the Government.
The world of road haulage is rather complex and articulated, especially in our country, and it might be worthwhile to look for unified alternative solutions to its ongoing problems, starting from manufacturing companies and the means these adopt to reach their respective markets. An examination of how the circulating fleet is made up, that highlights the relationship between the different categories of mass, pollution and the age of the vehicles and how these are used on behalf of third parties or on their own account, could produce policies that would significantly contribute to replace old vehicles, promoting the work of all road haulage companies, whatever their size.
"Meanwhile – insists Fenoglio - the national transport fleet continues to grow older and the prospects of directing it towards a sustainable renewal are ebbing away. We are waiting to know the contents of the decrees that should regulate the concessions, to private companies, the opportunity to manage inspection centres for industrial vehicles and we sincerely hope this will not turn out to be yet another missed opportunity. More stringent inspections, depending on the age of the vehicles subject to periodic inspection, could encourage the rapid renewal of the National fleet.
ROAD TRANSPORT: A MANIFESTO FOR EUROPE
Creating Ten-T networks, enhancing the European Transport Area, fight unfair competition, pursue environmental sustainability, have a continental vision to manage, and not suffer, the new "Silk Road".
These are some of the points of the Manifesto that Conftrasporto-Confcommercio unanimously approved and jointly sent to the newly renewed European authorities, because "commercial relations are consolidated on logistics and transport networks. Fast, secure and economically sustainable connections increase business competitiveness and create new cultural, training and work opportunities". "Without an efficient transport system, the whole economy stops and goods remain in warehouses" – affirmed the vice-president of Confcommercio and Conftrasporto, Paolo Uggè, who also explained that there is "still a long way to go, even on matters such as the free circulation of goods, one of the clear objectives of the EU, but not fully implemented".
In this regard the association proposed 5 actions: strengthen the EU's commitment to the implementation of Ten-T networks by strengthening their Euro-Mediterranean dimension, starting with the completion of the Mediterranean Corridor and the Turin-Lyon line; evaluate the effects of sectoral policies promoted by the Union and individual States on accessibility, competitiveness in relation to transport, energy, environment and security. Among the negative examples, the traffic restrictions imposed at some Alpine borders, which represent a real threat to the competitiveness of important Italian and European territories; develop a continental vision of ambitious programmes launched by some states, such as the "New Silk Road" in order not to compromise the concept of a European vision and the legitimate sovereignty of individual States on a subject of such great strategic importance; concretely implement the Single European Transport Area by combating all forms of unfair competition and social dumping, in line with the Road Alliance guidelines received at the first reading by the European Parliament; pursue the environmental, economic and social sustainability of transport by seeking the most effective solutions with the renewal of the circulating fleet according to the principle of technological neutrality and incentives towards intermodal transport by sea and rail.