Thursday, June 21, 2012

Road Haulage Groups and Freight Forwarders All Consulted by EU on Cabotage

'High Level Group' Report to Commission Will Impact on Transport Industry
Shipping News Feature

EUROPE – Next year the European Commission is scheduled to publish a comprehensive report on the road haulage market and the implications for European freight carriers are huge. An important step toward the publication of the Commissions decisions was taken this week with the publication of the findings of a ‘High Level Group’ which was assembled by the Commission's Vice-President Siim Kallas a year ago. Kallas refers to the group as his ‘wise men’ and obviously sets great stock on their collective opinion. The group have spent the year in discussion with industry stakeholders including road hauliers and road haulage organisations, freight forwarders, trade unions and customers of the road transport industry.

The group consisting of eight international academic experts (details of the personnel involved at the foot of this article) were requested to assess the level of harmonisation of the rules in the fields of social and safety legislation, enforcement and road user charges in order to advise the Commission before any decision on further opening of domestic road transport markets, including further liberalisation of cabotage. Cabotage of course is one of the controversial bêtes noir of the freight carriage sector which some see as a freeing up of the markets whilst others view as a reduction of national standards and identity and another move toward federalisation.

The EU has used the academics to target the integration of the market and their conclusions, although logical, may seem somewhat ideological to those whose feet are planted in the practicalities of running haulage operations day to day. The group proposes a ‘flexible and gradual opening of national road transport markets, to be flanked by measures to restore the attractiveness of the sector, ensure that rules are applied fairly and that innovation can be promoted.’

With regard to cabotage the option proposed is for a two tier system, ‘Linked Cabotage’ connected purely to an international cargo movement and with a restrictive time limit to avoid abuse, and ‘Non Linked Cabotage’ which is not tied to such a short time scale, is independent from specific international carriage movements and subject to ‘a registration procedure to ensure that the drivers involved apply the labour law of their local competitor’.

In the view of the High Level Group these measures ‘would allow a step-by-step opening of the market, increasing flexibility of operations and competition in national markets, whilst ensuring fair competition and avoiding a 'race to the bottom' in social norms. More flexibility would allow hauliers and shippers to optimise fleet management and reduce empty runs, thereby reducing emissions and fuel consumption whilst improving the competitiveness of the overall economy which relies on efficient logistics’. Many hauliers will take the view that such moves will simply produce a lowering of prices and standards with foreign hauliers undercutting their costs able to abuse the system with impunity.

Cabotage is the domestic transport of goods in a country by a haulier registered in another country. The rules on cabotage and access to the international road transport market for EU registered and other carriers are laid out in Regulation 1072/2009. Currently, according to the Regulation, hauliers may carry goods without restrictions from their country to another or between two Member States, even if these Member States are not their country of registration.

Hauliers are however still limited when they wish to go from one point to another in a Member State other than the one where they are registered. In this case (cabotage) hauliers are restricted to three transport operations in the seven days following an unloaded international carriage. These rules have been applied since May 2010.

Editors Note: Until operators can be assured that penalties for abuse of cabotage regulations will apply Community wide it is doubtful that they will accept the latest proposals as a fair system. It is an open secret that hauliers from poorer EU countries often operate within the territory of their wealthier neighbours with little fear for the penalties should they be caught committing violations of traffic laws. Only when justice can be seen to be done regardless of local culture and attitudes will operators trust they are competing on a level playing field.

The make up of the High Level Group is as follows:

Brian T. Bayliss, Professor of Business Economics at the University of Bath, Chairman

Monika Bąk, Associate Professor at the Chair of Comparative Research of Transport Systems at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Gdańsk in Poland, Group research adviser

Pia Koskenoja from Finland, independent researcher, Group research adviser

Marco Ponti, Professor in Transport Economics at the Politecnico Milano University in Italy

Michel Savy, Professor at the University of Paris East and the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in France

Wolfgang Stölzle, Professor of Logistics Management at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland (Professor Stölzle is from Germany and is the Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Federal Minister for Transport, Building and Urban Affairs in Germany)

Dimitrios Tsamboulas, Professor at the Department of Transportation Planning & Engineering at the National Technical University of Athens in Greece.

José Manuel Viegas, Professor at the Instituto Superior Técnico of the Technical University of Lisbon in Portugal.