Member states making up their own rules on international freight threatens the single market says EU Commissioner ahead of new ‘Road Initiatives’. The UK is apparently also now in trouble over the same issue.
Also, several states not taking part in today’s German ‘Speed Blitz’. A new ‘energy gum’ aimed specifically at drivers. Migrants in nightly trouble at Calais. A sparkling start to the year for Eurotunnel.
MEMBER STATE FREIGHT RULES THREATEN SINGLE MARKET
Commissioner blasts new freight rules popping up around the Continent.
Member States making their own rules on freight transport endangers the single market says the EU Transport Commissioner.
Violeta Bulc was speaking at a conference in Brussel on Tuesday ahead of new EU ‘Road Initiatives’ due in the summer.
She told the conference, ‘Unfortunately, we are seeing a tendency in Member States to implement their own rules. Different rules in different countries are problematic for transport operators who very often operate in several countries on a daily basis. This may endanger the single market. Operators have to keep track of all these different rules in order to be compliant and to avoid fines. This is not what we envisaged as an internal market.’
Her comments come after France followed Germany last week in announcing a new minimum wage rule for truck drivers on its territory.
There has also been recent controversy over new interpretations on double-manning rest times in France, and a ban on drivers spending weekly rest periods in their vehicles in several countries.
The ‘Road Initiatives’ are expected to simplify the rules governing international transport and hence make them easier to enforce.
Delegates were in broad agreement though it is not clear how well one potential proposal will be received, to move to purely time-based ‘cabotage’ rules instead of the current ‘three jobs in seven days’ in another member state.
Another popular idea was an EU ‘Road Transport Agency’ to police the sector, pushed particularly hard by the IRU (formerly the International Road Transport Union).
However, the Commission has previously been resistant and it was not mentioned in the conference summing up by Director-General for Mobility and Transport Henrik Hololei.
Update 22 April: the European Commission is reportedly launching an infringement case against the UK over its ‘HGV User Levy’, which is effectively paid only by foreign trucks. News magazine Der Spiegel says the Commission wrote to German Transport minister Alexander Dobrindt earlier this month to say the UK had failed to allay its doubts about the toll introduced in 2014 (see also Reuters). Dobrindt is currently embroiled in a dispute with the Commission over his ‘foreigner maut’, a proposed road toll which will effectively only be paid by visiting drivers. Like the UK scheme, German drivers will be rebated the charge through vehicle taxes. The Commission publishes its next Infringement Package on Thursday 28 April.
roundup: LONG DISTANCE. ‘Energy gums’ are not new but a new brand aimed at drivers is hoping to see the market finally expand much like it has done for Red Bull-style energy drinks. Italian firm Functional Gums has just signed a new retail deal in Spain for its Drive Gum, available in Italy since August 2013. The maker says the product’s lower caffeine content is key according to Confectionary News. Each 25mg piece is equivalent to a half espresso shot – an entire 12–piece pack comes in at 300mg, much less than the 400mg recommended as a safe daily amount in the US. Driver fatigue is a problem. Up to one fifth of accidents on motorways and other monotonous types of roads may be caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel says the UK DfT Department for Transport, with men aged 18-30 most likely to succumb late at night. ‘All drivers who fall asleep at the wheel have a degree of warning,’ continues the DfT – maybe one of them is the need for an energy drink, or gum. CALAIS MIGRANT CRISIS. ‘Everyone pretends everything is fine in Calais, but it’s just not true. I’m choosing my words here, but the situation is still a hell of a mess,’ said Gilles Debove of the SGP Police-Force Ouvriere union to AFP. His comments come after migrants blocked the N216/A216 port access road early on Tuesday morning. Such incidents have become common over the past month, as reported last week, after a period of calm. A pattern has emerged since the height of the migrant trouble last summer: police re-establish control only to let their guard down some weeks later. Concerns are now being raised ahead of the Euro 16 football tournament in June when extra police will be needed at matches in nearby Lille and Lens. CROSSING THE CHANNEL. After lagging the overall freight market for growth most of last year, Eurotunnel is now powering ahead according to its latest results. The overall cross-Channel freight market grew by 1.5 percent in the first quarter this year but the number of trucks through the Channel Tunnel carried increased by 10 percent, to more than 400,000 for the first time ever. Meanwhile, it was the best quarter in fifteen years for the regular passenger services with more than half a million vehicles using the crossing. Numbers grew by 8 percent compared to market growth of 3.6 percent. Ominously for its rivals, Eurotunnel took a 60 percent market share in the first quarter, up from 52.5 percent for all 2015. With the closure of Dover-Calais ferry operator MyFerryLink still working through the system, and the migrant crisis rumbling on around Port of Calais, it will be interesting to see how these figures develop over the rest of the year.