Weights and Dimensions

By proposal COM(2013) 195 final of 15. april 2013 the Commission has presented a proposal for revision of the rules in Directive 96/53 on weights and dimensions for vehicles in international transport in the EU. NLA has the following comments.

The overall principle for EU rules for weights and dimensions should be that when the infrastructure allows for it – including capacity, safety and wear and tear – vehicles with bigger dimensions and higher weights should be allowed for national and international transport even if between several Member States. For this reason NLA also welcomed the letter of June 13, 2012  from the Commission, by which it was finally clarified by the Commission, that the cross-border operation of a modular concept vehicle between Member states, who allow the modular concept, is also allowed according to the EU rules.

While NLA can relate to the political importance of repeating this position in the present proposal, we are concerned what will happen, if the Council and/or the Parliament may amend or reject the proposal of the Commission on this point. As far as we can see it would create a new legally unclear situation.

NLA shall ask the Nordic governments/the Commission to take this into account already during the negotiations, and ensure that no matter what the outcome of the negotiations on the new proposal, the existing situation for operations with the modular concept in, to and from the Nordic countries can continue unchanged and uninhibited.

Regrettably the Commission has chosen to amend Directive 96/53 without improving the clarity of the text. This contributes to certain confusion about what the Commission is actually proposing. But it is our interpretation, that in fact the proposal of the Commission is more restrictive than the letter of 2012. The proposal has a focus only on dimensions and not on weight. With the text as proposed, the starting point is, that the Member States cannot allow vehicles for national AND international operations within their territory, when they do not conform to the requirements in the directive on weight. They can only allow higher weight for national transport operations.

We are assuming that this is not the intention of the Commission, since the consequence would be that the supposed opening by the Commission for the operation of modular concept vehicles between 2 Member States only relates to dimensions and not to weight.

That it is a lack of clarity or lack of consequential amendments to the text is reflected also in the fact, that there are no changes in the reference in art 4.4. 1. paragraph to the stated points in the Annex -  points that cover both weights and dimensions (except 1.3) – and that the word ”national” is maintained in art 4.4 rather than deleted.

However, if it is not a mistake by the Commission, NLA must insist that the Nordic governments as soon as possible seek clarification of what the intention of the Commission is. Should it not be a mistake, it is obvious what the position of NLA is. A reduction in the permitted weight for the circulation of the modular concept vehicles between the Member States is not acceptable. A permission to circulate only on the basis of dimensions and not on the basis of weight is not relevant.

NLA must also emphasise in this context the importance of assurance from the Nordic governments, that the present rules for operation with vehicles between the Nordic countries remain and are assured. The Nordic countries experienced in the summer of 2012 the effect of the sudden stop for circulation with vehicles of the weights and dimensions permitted previously. It will lead to economic losses for road hauliers and an increase in the number of vehicles on the roads to handle the continued transport of an unchanged volume of freight. NLA is ready to contribute to a further analysis of the economic consequences, if this is needed.

Finally, NLA does not find any basis for the demand from the Commission, that the modular concept vehicles can only circulate between two member states. We propose the government only to accept the text if the word ”two” is deleted. The arguments used by Commissioner Kallas in his letter of July 13, 2012 to the European Parliament on cross-border use of the modular concept applies to any border crossing, even if the vehicles can cross the border between more than two countries on its journey.