Parliament wants new road toll and labour rules for truck drivers

Despite the overall satisfaction with the agreement, unions lamented that the transport sector was excluded from the scope of the new European Labour Authority. [JKilian/ Shutterstock]

MEPs have approved a list of demands for an upcoming EU overhaul of road toll and labour rules for truck drivers, and included a fresh call for an EU road agency after some political groups lost their bid for the new body earlier this year.

A resolution approved by the full European Parliament yesterday (18 May) asks EU member states to consider “the creation of a European Road Transport Agency with a view to ensuring proper implementation of EU legislation and promoting standardisation” across the bloc.

The report is not binding but is intended to make a last-minute point before a major EU legal overhaul.

The Parliament vote came one week before the European Commission proposes new legislation outlining standards for roads tolls in the 25 EU countries that have them for trucks, as well as a controversial bill that is expected to tighten rules on how long truck drivers can work outside the member state where they live and still fall under their home country’s laws.

MEPs voted in favour of a new measure to set up a new EU road agency in a separate non-binding resolution this spring, but rejected the agency in another binding vote on car testing legislation on the same day.

While earlier this year, some MEPs focused their arguments for an agency on creating an EU body to oversee emissions testing, now they also say the agency could be used to make sure haulage companies are following EU law on how to treat truck drivers and limit how long they stay on the road outside their home country.

It is unclear if MEPs will still try to push their demand for a road agency into another piece of binding legislation. Left-wing MEPs argue it is needed to oversee car emissions after the 2015 Volkswagen scandal, but conservatives say it will only add unneeded bureaucracy. The Commission has so far rejected calls for an agency.

Yesterday’s resolution also asked for the new Commission proposal on road tolls to guarantee “non-discrimination and avoid fragmented charging schemes for passengers’ cars across the EU”. Fifteen EU countries charge road tolls for passenger cars and the German Bundestag recently passed the country’s first toll law for cars.

MEPs have harshly criticised the Commission for approving Germany’s new road toll law last December, which they say discriminates against drivers from other member states by charging them higher rates.

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EU transport chief Violeta Bulc has defended the European Commission’s move to vouch for a controversial German road toll bill that has spurred blistering critique and threats of a lawsuit from 11 neighbouring countries.

They also asked the Commission to propose rules making sure road tolls are “proportionate to the use of the road and to the external costs generated by lorries, buses and cars”.

The EU executive has promoted a “user-pays” system for road charging, meaning that drivers should pay according to how far they drive to encourage them to use cars less.

Twin EU road toll proposals target pollution and cross-border trucking

EU transport chief Violeta Bulc is expected to announce an overhaul of how countries charge road tolls this May – a controversial issue that has provoked bitter political fights lately and is likely to spark backlash from member states, the shipping industry and truck drivers.

Consumer group Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) has argued against overcharging drivers. Data collected by the organisation shows that road tolls make up 71% of money invested in road infrastructure.

Laurianne Krid, director of FIA’s operations in Europe, said she is “cautious of an approach which could open the door to a significant rise” in charges for drivers.

MEPs also asked the Commission to make sure EU countries guarantee decent work conditions and minimum pay for truck drivers. Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc has said her proposals next week will clarify EU rules on cabotage, which outlines how long drivers can work abroad.

Bulc defends plan to overhaul road toll rules

“Let me assure you that we’re not after a revolution here,” Violeta Bulc said at a small Brussels conference this week after she outlined her plans to overhaul rules governing transport and shipping on roads.

The Parliament’s list of demands also includes a technology fix that could go into trucks to collect driver and vehicle data in one place and be checked at roadside control areas to make sure haulage companies are complying with the law.

Money collected by road tolls should be reinvested into roadside infrastructure to improve working conditions for drivers, the resolution says. The Commission proposal is expected to address how long and where drivers could rest while they are on the road.

The overhaul of social rules for truck drivers has already caused sharp divisions between low and high-wage EU member states.

Some eastern countries like Poland have argued the rules limiting drivers’ ability to work in other countries is damaging to the internal market. France and several other western EU countries want to stop what they call social dumping, or lower-wage drivers sent abroad from other countries who undercut local workers.

Ismail Ertug, a German Socialist MEP in the Parliament’s Transport Committee, told the social rules will be “the hardest dossier” in the Commission’s announcement next week.

“We all can be sure of that, not only for the Socialists, but within all the political groups. The EPP as well,” Ertug said.

“There are clear interests, the lobbies in the member states are putting so much pressure on them. Even the Socialist members must decide between supporting the rights of drivers or the high pressure of the lobby of the hauliers.”

East-West tensions reignite as Poland fights labour rules for truckers

Poland is putting up a fight over an upcoming EU proposal that will affect working conditions for truck drivers who travel between countries with different social welfare laws and minimum wages.

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