Thursday

18th Jul 2019

EU confronts France and Germany on trucking laws

  • Cheaper, eastern European operators have carved out a big chunk of the European road transport industry (Photo: David Basanta)

The European Commission pursued legal proceedings against France and Germany on Thursday (16 June) for requiring foreign transport drivers to be paid the French or German minimum wage.

It notified France that a new French law, which comes into force on 1 July, could violate EU free movement legislation.

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The law requires foreign transport companies to pay their drivers the French minimum wage if they deliver in France. It also requires foreign transport operators that deliver in France to designate a representative in the country.

A commission source told EUobserver that this would be discriminatory because it would create administrative barriers and would drive up the cost for foreign companies, especially small ones.

The commission already opened a similar case against Germany last year. It said on Thursday it was not satisfied with Berlin’s reaction but gave it more time before opening a case at the EU Court of Justice.

The commission said it "considers that the systematic application of the minimum wage legislation by France and Germany to all transport operations touching their respective territories restricts in a disproportionate manner the freedom to provide services and the free movement of goods".

Germany introduced a minimum wage of €8.50 an hour in January last year, while in France it is €9.67 per hour - higher than in the eastern European trucking industry.

Minimum wage issues in road transportation have become a sensitive political topic as operators from eastern Europe, where wages are lower, have carved out a big share of the road freight business.

Earlier this month, 11 countries urged the commission to take action against France and Germany for requiring foreign drivers be paid the French or German minimum wages when they drive through those countries.

The transport ministers of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia claimed in a letter to Brussels that such "protectionist practices" restricted free movement of goods and services.

EU sources said the Germans have more or less shelved the legislation, that is why the executive has not taken Berlin to court over the issue yet.

Paris and Berlin will have two months to find a solution with the commission. If they fail to do so, the case could end up in the EU Court.

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