A week in EU transport policy

Date: 23, November 2016
Last week saw a number of significant events for road transport policy in the EU. Seen in isolation they do not seem to have much importance, but seen together they show a pattern and a direction for EU transport policy for the coming years. A lot of the EU transport policy discussion these months focus on innovation, climate and efficiency. Boiling under the surface is however the issues of fair competition, fair conditions for market access, social dumping, minimum wage. And this relates to most forms of transport: road, rail, aviation, waterborn.


The seminar of the European Logistics Platform, of which NLA is a founding member, had precisely focus on the future on logistics and the game changers for how sustainable logistics will look in 20-30 years. Innovation – big and small – and investments in new technology are key elements of the future development – from drones and autonomous trucks to better warehouse handling and flow management.

However this did not keep the Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc from emphasizing in her opening speech, that persons are important. Their skills and their working conditions need to be taken into account, and she confirmed that the Commission is indeed looking at how to solve the need for clarification of the social rules applicable for highly mobile workers in the EU – how to apply the rules of the posting of workers directive to a sector that does not fit the standard form, for which the directive was originally written. In other words, the Commissioner also kept people at the front of the discussion.

The following day, in Paris, our French sister organization FNTR held its annual meeting with closing speech by the French secretary of state M Alain Vidalies. In his speech M Vidalies supported emphatically the introduction of minimum wage also for road transport in France. It is a step that is taken within the framework of fighting social dumping, which remains a priority of the French government. M Vidalies furthermore underlined that it is not only a French priority, but it is shared with many other governments in the EU, and he will continue his joint initiative with the German and other ministers also at the upcoming meeting of the EU ministers of transport in December.

It should be added that M Vidalies did also use a fair amount of time in his speech to focus on innovation and development. The use of digitalized documents, such as the eCMR, is now  priority for France and a pilot project is planned involving Spain, France, and Benelux.

Chance would have it, that the following day, in Frankfurt, the German sister organizationfor road hauliers, BGL, held its annual meeting also with a closing speech from a minister, Herr Alexander Dobrindt, the federal minister of transport. In his speech he picked up elements from the speeches of both Mrs Bulc and M Vidalies. In particular he went out of the way to make clear, that for a long future – if not forever – there will be need for manpower in the transport and logistics sector. Everything will not be replaced by robots or automated vehicles; and he urged young people to continue considering a career in transport and logistics, which remains an important industry for Germany. But he also – like M Vidalies – made it clear that social dumping needs to disappear from the sector. He remarked that there was a limit to the patience with the Commission and asked for proposals and solutions soon. He confirmed his support for the German minimum wage also for road transport and confirmed that he found the Commission had gone too far in its criticism of the German law. 

So what does this say for EU transport policy? France and Germany have confirmed their joint fight – with others – against social dumping and in favour of a transport and logistics sector that continue to be attractive and interesting for young people, offering long careers. Neither they nor the Commissioner see a conflict between fighting social dumping and innovating the sector. In fact it goes hand in hand to make the industry sustainable in a financial, social and innovative manner. But both challenges need solutions for EUs transport and logistics industry to survive. That’s what last week showed us about EU transport policy.