Nine countries signed up to a “Road Alliance”

Date: 19, January 2017
At the invitation of Alain Vidalies, the French Secretary of State for Transport, Sea and Fisheries, ministers from Germany, Belgium, Austria, Italy, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden and Norway met in Paris on Tuesday (January 31st) to jointly launch a “Road Alliance”.

The nine signing countries will jointly cope with unfair competition based on social dumping in the road haulage sector. On the homepage of the French ministry it is stated that road freight transport in Europe faces: “Unfair competition based heavily on social dumping. This sector is in particular a victim of the use of sophisticated fraud and the misuse of internal market and labor law rules”.

The declaration has two objectives. The fist is to converge certain national measures implementing European regulations in order to facilitate their application for the operators and improve the lives of the workers. The second is to improve control practices and strengthen cooperation, on the basis of mutual experiences, to make enforcement more effective.

The action plan agreed upon for the “Road Alliance” contains eight concrete measures:

  • Drivers work- private life balance: The ministers suggest different options including facilitating the return of the driver for the regular weekly rest.
  • Strengthen measures on light commercial vehicles. The ministers are quite categorical in stating that there is a problem and an increase in cross border operations with these vehicles. We need to look at some kind of licensing regime.
  • Promote the use of eCMR to reduce administrative burden and to increase efficiency and effectiveness of controls.
  • Better exchange of information on infringements between national authorities.
  • Improve statistics to give us better knowledge to better target the companies with recurring infringement and help the exemplary companies.
  • To strengthen the exchange of national control practices and cooperation in the fight against fraud through existing multilateral bodies for police cooperation such as ECR and TISPOL.
  • Develop better cooperation against letterbox companies and other fraud – including shortening the introduction period of the smart digital tachograph.
  • Defend common position at ECMT to ensure controlled evolution of the market –the ministers are expressing concern that liberalization will happen indirectly through changes to the multilateral quota system in ECMT.

The purpose of this new initiative – which follows from previous joint actions by more or less the same group of countries -  is to regain the initiative to defend a road transport market for goods based on fair and healthy competition and guarantee of the social rights of workers. The initiative can be seen in the light of the European Commission´s plan to publish an important amount of new legislation on social issues within the road haulage sector this spring, covering break rules and workers’ rights for drivers.

The agreed text has a wording that is refreshingly precise, specific and strong. Notably the text talks about the influence social dumping has on EU scepticism and growing populism. The ministers also stress that we need harmonization of relevant social legislation before further liberalization of road transport (in particular cabotage). In addition to this, the text calls for improvement of cooperation on controls and on implementation of legislation as well as improvement of the image of road transport and drivers. The ministers also confirm that road safety remains a paramount objective.

” Nordic Logistics Association – organizing 18.000 operators in the Nordic countries – welcomes the joint declaration from the 9 ministers. We are in particular happy to see that the ministers are being precise and concrete in their suggestions. This is a good starting point for the coming discussions on the expected road initiative from the Commission. I think a lot more members of the EU can agree with a lot of what the declaration from Paris is saying so I am optimistic for a good solution for the road transport market in the EU,” comments CEO of NLA Soren Larsen.

“I just hope that the Commission also listens and understands the clear message. In particular, I find it encouraging that the ministers understand, that what is happening in the road transport market today contributes to the EU skepticism you see so many places today,” adds Soren Larsen. “We as an industry now have an important task to assist our ministers in the work. NLA could basically have written this text ourselves, so now we must do our share to make it happen.”