EU Commission confirms UIRR’s study on the impact of new road haulage rules
On the 19th of February, the EU Commission published a ‘targeted impact assessment study’ concerning the consequences of the new EU road haulage rules on Combined Transport. Just like UIRR had predicted in its study, almost a month ago, the EU Commission concluded that the CT sector could suffer from an eight per cent decline in its volumes when the rules see full implementation.
CT’s rail-road leg will most probably experience the most significant impact of the new set of rules. Simultaneously, the most endangered countries are Germany, Italy, Austria and the Benelux region. According to UIRR, “a low drop in the transported volumes can put the business case for rail freight connections at serious risk”. Reduced rail freight departures could also lead to a “domino effect with CT losing more of its competitiveness”, resulting in a reverse modal shift from rail to road. Moreover, “a change in the utilisation rate of a freight train could make an entire train connection economically unfeasible”, UIIR underlined.
Which is the right approach?
The International Union of Combined Road-Rail Transport Companies recognises the importance of road haulage measures to provide better social conditions for truck drivers. Nevertheless, it urges EU politicians to avoid “contradictions between socially motivated legislative changes and decarbonisation objectives”. In contrast, it is looking forward to the development of solutions that would serve both equally well.
After all, as UIRR concluded, the European intermodal sector’s objective is to achieve a fair regulatory playing field between the modes of transport, which will rely on the highest social standards, without drawing back shared decarbonisation goals.
The European Parliament adopted Mobility Package I last July. It includes rules that concern drivers’ working conditions, rules for drivers in international transport, and update provisions regarding access to the haulage market. However, it also provides the EU Member States with the chance to suspend Article 4 of the Combined Transport directive in their territories. This practically means that short-distance trucking prices could double-a catastrophic consequence for CT that relies on them.
Based on this legislative framework, UIRR conducted a study with twenty companies from ten different countries. The study focused on assessing where and how the new EU haulage rules could impact CT, conducting a comprehensive market survey and qualifying possible effects based on market input and CT volumes.
The key-take aways from the assessment were nothing but ominous. If the Member States use their ability to suspend Article 4, the results could impact both costs and capacities of Combined Transport. Moreover, they could undermine CT’s competitive position due to the boost of long-distance road haulage, CT’s direct competitor.
Consequently, after the findings, UIRR came up with four proposals: the first thing to do is persuade Member States to abstain from the optional possibility to suspend article 4 of the CT directive. As UIRR President Ralf-Charley Schultze commented, this approach needs to be characterised by smart moves and negotiations. Since the EU already adopted the rules, this could not change easily. The second measure concerns adopting the Eurovignette directive reform in line with the European Parliament’s position and reforms in energy taxation during 2021. The Eurovignette Directive 1999/62/EC concerns the charging of bulk goods vehicles for the use of specific infrastructures.
Regarding energy taxation, UIRR wished to see a proportionality between the fuel’s energy content and the adopted pricing of CO2 per tonne. In simple words, it demanded fair taxation for the use of fuels in different transport modes. Finally, UIRR proposed some temporary compensatory measures such as waiving track access charges, adopting the block exemption for state aid, upgrading the TEN-T network for 740m/P400 train paths and securing freight transport capacities through network utilisation concepts.