07 August 2020

Mobility Package I Takes Off: CLECAT Calls for Clear Implementation Guidelines

Following the recent adoption of new social and market access rules for road transport in the EU, known as the Mobility Package I, the Regulation on driving and resting times will enter into force by the end of this month. The adoption of the package was claimed to be a success as it followed a long and bumpy road by the co-legislators over the last 3 years.

Other parts of the package, such as the Regulation governing access to the road haulage market and to the profession of road haulage operator, have an 18-month implementation time, meaning that the new rules will only apply as of February 2022. This is also the case with the Directive laying down the new rules on the posting of drivers. The adequate levels of flexibility for driving and rest time rules, as well as the agreement on rules regarding the weekly rest periods for international road freight transport drivers are indeed positive, but there are remaining questions, unclarities and concerns.

At the time when companies are seeking to recover from the implications of the COVID-19 crisis, the industry is confronted with an overly complex deal, which still needs further guidelines for interpretation. CLECAT therefore welcomes the European Commission’s intent to publish detailed implementation guidelines by this autumn, which we deem necessary to ensure legal certainty for the companies, as well as uniform application and enforcement of the rules by the Member States, which is so important for the European Single Market.

One example we are particularly concerned with is the definition of a simple cabotage operation. Currently, some Member States interpret cabotage in such a way that a haulier is only allowed to carry cabotage-cargo from one and the same shipper under one consignment note or risk breaching the cabotage restrictions. The problem with such an interpretation is that it leads to more trucks on the road rather than less, translating into not only higher prices but ultimately more emissions.

Since the definition of a cabotage operation has not been amended in the revised EU legislation, we are concerned that some national competent authorities may continue to consider every partial unloading as a separate cabotage operation. There is a pending court case on this issue in Sweden dating back to 2018 and, more recently, there have also been similar instances in Germany. As such, CLECAT and its members call on the Commission to provide further guidance on the definition of a cabotage operation in the upcoming implementation guidelines of the Mobility Package I, as it would help avoid conflicting interpretations by national competent authorities in different Member States.

More generally, there are also remaining questions on the economic and environmental impact of the new measure mandating the regular return of the vehicle to the country of establishment, which is closely connected to the return of the driver. We appreciate the additional Commission’s impact assessment of these provisions and the willingness to engage with CLECAT as one of the most affected stakeholders. While the targeted stakeholder consultation will be launched later on in August, the results of the impact assessment should be available around the New Year. 

Most importantly, the question remains whether the new rules can be implemented practically and whether the rules are in line with the ambition of the EU to have a free circulation of goods, services and persons. CLECAT regrets deeply that the main industry concerns were not taken into account by the co-legislators throughout the negotiations. This relates in particular to the inclusion into the agreement of the posting obligation for international transport, as well as generally unclear and hardly enforceable posting rules, the return of the vehicle, the 4-day ‘cooling-off’ period and other restrictions on cabotage operations, as well as the prohibition to spend the weekly rest in the cabin.

Overall, we fear that different interpretations of the road transport rules would continue to prevail among the Member States, leading to further internal market fragmentation and disproportionate national measures. With that in mind, clear Commission’s guidance to the national authorities and the industry on the interpretation of the Mobility Package I conclusions are of particular importance to prevent this from happening.