Partial liberalisation of cabotage, longer maximum working hours for coach and bus drivers and tougher inspections of transport companies: these were the main amendments resulting from a compromise with the Council on the "road transport package" as approved by members of the EP Transport Committee on Tuesday.
- Three cabotage operations within seven days will be allowed following an international journey, within limits laid down by each Member State
- Coach drivers can work up to twelve days in a row on a single trip
- Road haulage firms must meet strict requirements to obtain the right to operate
The agreement covers the three regulations that make up the package: on cabotage rules, maximum working hours for coach and bus drivers and checks on road transport operators.
Fewer empty lorries on the roads: cabotage
Under the amended draft regulation as adopted by MEPs, three cabotage operations are allowed within seven days following an international journey. These operations can be made in the Member States through which the driver passes on his return, provided they are limited to one per Member State within three days after the driver has entered the territory of that Member State.
Cabotage is the carriage of goods for a third party, on a temporary basis, that originates and terminates within the boundaries of a given country by a transporter of another country.
MEPs in favour of further liberalisation
The European Parliament has argued in the past for greater liberalisation of cabotage, above all to reduce the number of journeys made by empty lorries, thereby maximising the benefits for hauliers and limiting the environmental impact.
The regulation as approved does not lay down a limit but a minimum: Member States will be free to allow as many cabotage operations on their territory as they wish. In addition, the text says that cabotage operations "should not be prohibited as long as they are not carried out in a way that creates a permanent or continuous activity within that Member State".
The European Commission must also examine in 2013 the possibility of going further with the opening up of the road transport market and the liberalisation of cabotage.
The new cabotage rules will apply six months after the regulation is published in the Official Journal (the Council wanted it to be two years).
Parliament's report on this draft regulation, for which Mathieu Grosch (EPP-ED, BE) is rapporteur, was adopted by 25 votes to 6 with 0 abstentions.
Maximum working time for coach and bus drivers restored to 12 days
Since the application of a 2007 EU directive, coach drivers who travel abroad must take at least one rest day every six days. Tour operators complain that this forces them to employ two drivers for most journeys and to claw back the extra cost from their customers.
Following an accord reached with industry representatives in May last year, MEPs backed the reintroduction of the "twelve day rule", which allows the period in which coach drivers can work on international journeys to be raised to twelve days.
However, there are restrictions: the journey must be a single trip, not several different ones.
Measures to safeguard public services
This regulation, on access to the market for coach and bus services, includes measures to safeguard public services. Where an international coach or bus service would affect the viability of a comparable public service on a given stretch of a route, a Member State can, with the Commission's agreement, withdraw authorisation for that service.
These rules will apply two years and twenty days after the regulation is published in the OJ.
This second report by Mathieu Grosch was adopted by 32 votes to 0 with 2 abstentions.
Harmonisation of conditions for road transport operators
The final part of the road package, a regulation on conditions to be met to pursue the occupation of road transport operator, was also strongly supported by MEPs. The aim is to guarantee a high, uniform standard of service throughout the EU and ensure that firms comply with labour regulations and administrative rules in the country where they are based.
Interconnected electronic registers
National electronic registers must be established by Member States, containing information on matters including the firm's finances, place of establishment, staff management and any previous infringements. At the request of MEPs, these registers must be interconnected by the end of 2012 to enable the authorities of the Member States to consult data on a firm based in any other Member State.
No more "letter box companies"
A road transport company must be physically established in a Member State (i.e. have its offices there) and be able to present its administrative documents to the relevant national authorities. The firm must also be in a position to prove where in the Member State it parks its unused vehicles. This requirement should put an end to the practice of "outflagging" of "letter box" companies, whereby a firm registers for administrative purposes in one Member State but is really operating mainly in another country.
Transport company managers and the firms themselves must not have been found guilty of a criminal or serious offence relating to road transport. To prove their competence, managers must pass a compulsory written test arranged by the Member State authorities.
The report on this third regulation, drafted by Sylvia Ticau (PES, RO), was adopted in committee by 34 votes to 0 with 0 abstentions.
The agreement on the three regulations in the package reflects a compromise reached between MEPs and the Council at the meetings on 3 and 24 March. The regulations are now set for adoption at second reading before the end of Parliament's current term of office. The plenary vote takes place on 23 April in Strasbourg.
Procedure: Co-decision, second reading 30/03/2009 Chair : Paolo COSTA (ALDE, IT) REF. : 20090330IPR52902
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