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The automotive industry demands “clear and timely rules”

Paolo Castiglia

A general mobilization right across the country. Such a united approach in the automotive sector has not been witnessed for decades. A great contribution in uniting the different transport associations was played by the many common issues on which the sector awaits satisfying answers from the Government.

“We have the highest operating costs in Europe, we are up against unbridled competition from unlicensed operators and foreign carriers who violate international transport regulations, we have no certainties on indicative operating costs to be used with potential customers, we have to wait for months or even years to be paid and we do not know when exceptional transport permits will be available again, we cannot count on the full cooperation of MOT centres and we are still waiting for rail and sea bonuses, Tax relief on International Drivers and certainties on vehicle excise duties. All we are really asking is a prompt reply to these problems which are bringing  companies to their knees”.

Rather strong, in fact, as the above transporter’s note clearly explained, was also the organizer’s satisfaction for the widespread adhesion to the national transport mobilization by all association found within Unatras and Can-Fita.

But what exactly happened during the events? This time serious discomfort to the general population was avoided, such as traditional truck strikes: this time, instead, transport companies peacefully invaded some of the country’s main squares to demand some answers from the Government, probably the first of a series of initiatives.

“From Milan to Rome, from Trieste to Genoa, from Ancona to Venice and again Parma, Piacenza and many other cities, transport companies have made their voices heard to their Government – continues the transporter’s note – the unresolved issues are many indeed: in particular, the sector feels the need to establish sanctions aimed at enforcing timely payments for transport companies. Strong demands were also made on creating clear rules for the whole sector, to be shared with other EU countries, able to restrict unfair competition from foreign carriers and unlicensed endeavors, or cutting necessary resources for the industry starting from so-called ‘flat deductions’, which are fundamental for the survival of many artisan companies; not to mention the many promised economic resources which never materialized to facilitate inter-modality and freight transport via sea routes such as the “mare-bonus” (sea-bonus).

Furthermore, road hauliers denounce the fact that there are a number of understaffed MOT centres, unable to carry out even the most common operations, from vehicle inspections to timely reviews of the ADR regulatory framework on International Carriage of Dangerous Goods to the detriment of everyone’s safety.

According to the claims presented, “regulations on exceptional loads needs to be substantially changed before any disaster occurs due to other bridges collapsing and the sector now expects the Government to move from words to actions”.

A small focus on a rather unusual initiative, in an equally unusual location such as RAI’s Roman Headquarter (RAI being the National Broadcasting company) in Saxa Rubra: this was the choice made by the main Unatras associations found in Rome as well as the rest of Lazio, to let the institutions hear the strong and clear voice of the national transport sector and the protests for the lack of attention and concern with which the public institution look at a strategic sector for the economy and the productive life of the country” as stated in a note.

Right before the TV news broadcasting studios, a number of trucks were covered with enormous banners bearing the keywords of the mobilization. On stage and among the transporters present, a few actors imitated some of the most important institutional interlocutors – from judges to police officers, from sharp dressed buyers to blue-banded European representatives – creating a lively moment of entertainment without neglecting to point out, despite the stage fiction, the main issues that Unatras members have placed at the centre of their mobilization.

Along with the transporters who were willingly drawn into the collective representation of the general discomfort and desire for major changes, the highest representatives of the Associations, who organized the mobilization at a National level, also made their voices heard: starting with Unatras and Confartigianato Trasporti’s President Amedeo Genedani, to the secretary of Transfrigoroute Italia Claudio Donati, not to mention FAI’s secretary Angelo Punzi.

We should not, however, be fooled by the cheerful images of the event, said the organizers: “the stakes are not clear only to us as the sector’s professionals and specialists, and further delays are no longer acceptable. It is up to the Government, and the Institutions, to make sure that these vital issues are addressed rapidly and effectively: we mean compliance to rules, transparency, tax relief aimed at supporting an increase in freight volumes, timely payment for the services performed so as not to force the transporters in becoming their customers’ banks and dealing with all forms of dumping and unfair competition”. The event – explained President Genedani – has taken place in 20 cities located in 11 regions: Asti, Cuneo, Novara, Turin, Genoa, Milan, Lecco, Bergamo, Brescia, Venice, Trento, Trieste, Parma, Forlì, Cesena, Prato, Ancona, Rome, Naples, Catanzaro and Messina. Beside the trucks parading, press conferences, sit-ins right outside MOT testing grounds, meetings with MPs and other institutions were also organized. 

“If we do not get immediate answers followed by the Government’s commitment to live up to its promises – concludes Genedani – we will be forced, despite our efforts, to suspend all services, in defense of our interests”.


Box 1

Anita: no motorway toll discounts for older-generation vehicles

“We believe it to be imperative for any carrier to try to reduce industrial vehicle’s harmful emissions and the subsequent need to invest in ‘cleaner’ trucks”. These were the words of Thomas Baumgartner, President of Anita, one of the industry’s top associations, following the debate on the 2017 Motorway Tolls Directive. The proposal made by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport provides for a 5% maximum discount for vehicles powered by a Euro 3 engine, which can no longer be registered as from October 1, 2006, after that last year, “following the general review of the discount scheme this amount was inexplicably raised to 9% for the higher turnover classes” said a further note from Anita. Artisans contest this proposal and would prefer a higher discount for Euro 3 models. But this proposal was firmly rejected by Anita as well as other associations.

“Community legislations on motorway tolls stipulate that the discounts should also take into account the environmental impact, and considering that the 2017 Government plan confirmed the super-depreciation for instrumental vehicles, we find it difficult to understand the proposal since – continues Baumgartner – those who drive a certain amount of kilometers per year, will benefit in terms of maintenance costs and safety standards if they replace their older vehicles, with an undeniable benefit for the whole community. On the other hand, companies travelling fewer kilometers with the same vehicles will get an insignificant discount anyway”. Anita hopes, therefore, for a reduction of the percentage of discount or, at most, to maintain the Ministry’s proposal of 5% for Euro 3 vehicles.


Box 2

Industrial vehicles: rising registrations

Great news for the transport sector: February 2017 saw an 11,9% increase in the number of new industrial vehicles with a GVM above 3,5 tons compared to the same month last year, 1,800 new registrations against 1,608. Based on the registration data provided by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, the Unrae Centre of Studies and Statistics estimated that in the first two months of the current year the increase was +19,8% over the previous year, with 3,750 new registrations compared to 3,131.

As far as heavy duty trucks are concerned, with a total GVM above 16 tons, February 2017 data also showed an 11,2% increase over the same month in 2016, while looking at the first two months combined the increase was +18,6% compared to the first two months in 2016.

This positive trend is supported by funding schemes to promote the purchase of new vehicles issued by the Ministry at the end of 2016, for which the percentage of positive applications has been on the rise since 2013.

“Unrae is cooperating with the relevant offices of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport to streamline the allotment of the incentives and make them more efficient, in terms of lower emissions”, said Franco Fenoglio, President of Unrae, “promoting all possible innovative solutions capable of giving a substantial boost to the growth of sustainable mobility, especially in our cities, where light and heavy transport vehicles play a key role in the distribution of goods”.

“Such measures – concludes Fenoglio – should, therefore, be directed in full compliance of the principle of technological neutrality which inspires Unatras, to all types of fuels – without exception – able to guarantee the achievement of environmental targets and in favor of a higher quality of the air we breathe, focusing on a timely renewal of the vehicles currently circulating on our roads”.


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