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25th Sep 2021

MEPs give green light to road transport sector reform

  • Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria alone would emit an additional 3.2m tonnes of CO2 per year under the new rules (Photo: David Basanta)

MEPs gave the green light on Thursday (9 July) to the Mobility Package covering truck drivers' working conditions - rejecting all amendments pushed from central and eastern member states.

After three years of negotiations, MEPs still had to endorse all three legal acts of the package - as adopted by EU ministers in April.

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The new rules will force trucks to return to the company's operational centre every eight weeks, give drivers the right to return home at regular intervals and guarantee that their rest periods are outside their vehicle - with employers covering the cost of accommodation.

"The mobility package promotes fair competition between operators and improves road safety as well as drivers' working conditions," said MEP Henna Virkkunen from the European People's Party.

"The European single market cannot properly function without fair common rules which are uniformly controlled and enforced," she added.

However, more right-wing MEPs have described the new EU rules as being harmful to the single market.

"The mobility package is a clear example of economic protectionism," said MEP Kosma Zlotowski from the European Conservatives and Reformists, who claims that the new rules discriminate against transport companies from countries such as Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and the Baltic States.

Litigation threat?

Ahead of the vote in plenary, ministers of transport and foreign affairs from nine member states called on the EU parliament to reject the provisions related to the vehicle's return to the country of establishment.

The request of Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Cyprus, Latvia, Malta and Romania is based on "deep concern" about the road transport sector, which was severely hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, plus on the EU single market and the Green Deal, they said in a letter sent to MEPs last week.

Lithuanian vice-minister for transport, Gytis Mazeika, described the signing off as "a point of no return on one hand and preparation for litigation on the other" since his country has expressed it's intent to bring the issue to the European Court of Justice.

Meanwhile, EU commissioner for transport Adina Vălean warned that some of the new rules might be not aligned with the Green Deal - referring to the compulsory return of the vehicle every eight weeks, and the restrictions imposed on combined transport operations.

The commission will now present by the end of the year a risk assessment on the impact of these two aspects on the environment and EU's single market.

According to the Lithuanian International Transport and Logistics Alliance, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria alone would emit an additional 3.2m tonnes of CO2 per year under the new rules.

"The commission, if necessary, will exercise its right to come forward with a targeted legislative proposal before the two provisions enter into force," said Vălean in a statement.

The adopted rules will enter into force 18 months after they are published in the EU's official journal.

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The European Parliament said that future EU rules should put an end to unfair competition in the transport sector. But Eastern European MEPs fear this would undermine the single market.

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The EU's new mobility strategy aims to reduce transport's carbon footprint by 90 percent by 2050 - with the electrification of road transport, the use of biofuels and more high-speed rail traffic. But no ban on short-haul flights.

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