EU road freight sector needs investments in a socially sustainable, innovative, fair and better future!

31 Aug 2020

In a letter to EU Transport Commissioner Adina-Ioana Vălean, the ETF Road Transport Section calls for a fair and sustainable deployment of the EU recovery instruments and emphasises the need for investments to develop a socially sustainable, innovative, fair and better future for road freight transport.

For the ETF, the European Commission and EU Member States must turn the recovery process into an opportunity to rebuild the sector, and develop a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable future haulage market in the EU.

The letter points out the pitfalls of the industry and lists concrete actions that the EU Commission and EU Member States can take to remedy them.

Though the Mobility Package has the potential to bring clear improvements for drivers and business in road transport, full commitment to the eradication of letter-box companies and smart enforcement of these new rules must accompany the package if it is to be successful. The sector needs innovation and digital progress in monitoring law compliance in the haulage sector to put an end to the backward paper-based documenting practices that make controls time consuming and ineffective.

EU road transport was built on unfair and untenable practices, and COVID-19 has exposed each and every one of them – hauliers circumventing social security legal obligations, letter-box companies, unfair pay and working conditions, drivers being made to live illegally in their trucks…

The accumulation of precarious working and living conditions which have long existed before COVID-19 has led to a massive effect on the attractiveness of the sector. The average age of drivers is around 45 in Europe. An estimated 98% of the drivers are male, which shows that young people and women think twice about entering the sector and taking up the profession of a truck driver.

For the ETF, it is now high time to put an end to these unfair practices: the recovery process should be used to rebuild the sector as modern, attractive, and safe for newcomers as well as for drivers and road users.

This entails equal access to decent living and working conditions, to legal pay and benefits for all European and non- European professional drivers.

We trust that the European Commission, in its quality of guardian of the Treaty, will put an end to practices such as paying truck drivers the minimum salary of their country of origin when working abroad, and instead ensure that the principle of equal pay for work of equal value is applied.

In this vein, the ETF calls on the European Commission and EU Member States to take the following measures and actions, when allocating grants and loans to the recovery of the sector:

  • Allocate part of the recovery funds for transport to national and cross-border road enforcement and controls
  • Involve the social partners at national level in developing the national recovery plans.
  • Require proof that hauliers demanding for EU loans and grants:

a) Have a clean compliance record in line with the rules on access to occupation;

b) Have a genuine place of establishment;

c) Contribute to the applicable social security schemes and remunerate their workforce in full respect of the applicable laws;

d) Comply with the regular return of fleets and drivers to the country of establishment/home;

e) Have active measures in place to ensure law compliance throughout their supply chains;

f) Protect jobs and keep skilled workers in continuous employment.

  • Require proof from applicants in the delivery sector that they comply with the existing rules on subcontracting, posting and temporary agency work.

In addition, the ETF calls on the European Commission and the Member States to:

  • Invest in safe and affordable parking areas to guarantee drivers’ access to sanitary facilities, catering and decent rest conditions.
  • As vans engaged in cross-border transport are now covered by the Mobility package, extend the scope of other relevant EU directives – such as the driver’s training directive and the working time for mobile personnel in road transport – to cover light goods vehicles.
  • Develop policies and legislation in the supply chain that break the current system of unfair prices and make shippers and freight owners pay the fair price. This can be done by extending the mandatory joint liability that is already part of the Lex Specialis and of the driving and rest time rule, to all EU legislation applicable to the road transport and to adopt enforcement measures to be applied throughout the subcontracting of the supply chain.

Freight drivers have played an essential role and kept Europe moving by delivering essential supplies throughout this crisis. It is now time to respond to their demands – safe jobs, fair income,  and health and safety! To achieve this, we need concrete action, funds and for the future EU mobility strategy to include and combine all three pillars of sustainability: social, environmental, and economic.

Our full letter can be downloaded at your right.