NLA comments on the Combined Transport revision

Date: 21, February 2018
On November 8, 2017 the European Commission published the second mobility package also called the “Clean Mobility Package”. As a part of the many proposals in the package, the European Commission is reviewing the Combined Transport Directive from 1992. We are concerned that the revision of the Directive is not improving the situation and that this is a missed opportunity to simplify and clarify the rules for Combined Transport of goods in Europe.

The Nordic Logistics Association finds that Combined Transport as a concept is of great value, and we encourage actions and incentives that promotes combined transport and increases its attractiveness. However, the Combined Transport Directive has caused major problems the last 25 years, with unclear definitions, complex legislation and non-effective enforcement measures. The Directive has limited impact in promoting Combined Transport, as we have seen in the Scandinavian countries where as an example no one has demanded a refund for road charges since the entry into force in 1992, which is one of the main incentives in the Directive. We are therefore concerned that the revision of the Directive is not improving the situation and that this is a missed opportunity to simplify and clarify the rules for Combined Transport of goods in Europe.

Points of concern

We have several points of concern regarding the revision of the Combined Transport Directive. These are the main points:  The first one is the fact that the proposal keeps the “cabotage exemption” for international combined transport operations. The exemption means that the rules for cabotage do not apply if you are doing an international Combined Transport operation. This exemption will make it possible for low-wage operators to continue to do what are in fact national transport operations, with no restrictions regarding number of operations and time. Our second point is our concern about the extension of scope of the directive to also include national Combined Transport operations.The question is which conditions apply to these road operations; could it become possible to drive combined transport only respecting the rules for cabotage – which may be further liberalized -  without having to respect the limits on distance, as provided for in the Combined Transport Directive? Is it cabotage or is it combined transport? We are also missing clarity about the link between the lex specialis for posting of workers to Combined Transport operations, especially regarding the different applications of the rules for posting whether the Combined Transport is an international or a national operation. Why should the same operation in a Member State wait 3 days to be covered by Posting of Workers rules if it is defined as international, but only one day if national? The Commission needs to recognize that any road transport leg of a combined transport operation in a member state not carried out by a local operator, is in direct competition with the national operators and social rules must be the same for both operators.

In addition to this we have concerns regarding the definition of the "Nearest suitable rail loading station”, the extension of the definition of the maximum length for the road leg to up to 20% of the total combined transport distance as the crow flies and the fact that even with better control and enforcement of documentation, the directive will still continue to create situations where it is possible to escape the rules, as the proposal lacks proper instruments to ensure full and proper documentation. And finally e find it unacceptable that empty containers are accepted as a Combined Transport.

On the more positive note, we welcome the European Commission initiative to take good steps forward regarding increased control requirements, documentation requirements and increased cooperation between member states.  Moreover, we are pleased to see that the European Commission is aware that the major problem for Combined transport is the transshipment costs.We appreciate that the European Commission proposes an obligation for member states to take steps to ensure sufficient investments and capacity; to establish a well-functioning network for combined transport. 

You can read the hole NLA position paper here.