EU: Scrapping the return of the vehicle will harm the environment

20 Nov 2023

The Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union issued a much-awaited statement on various aspects of the Mobility Package, including the return of the vehicle. On the latter, the Advocate General concludes that the legal provision should be annulled because it wasn’t justified by the legislator with an impact assessment.

To this, the ETF can only reiterate the following:

Until the adoption of the Mobility Package, decades of unclear and inefficient EU rules resulted in thousands of letterbox companies being established in Central and Eastern Europe to have access to low-cost labor and to circumvent controls. It is no secret that the Member States these companies are established in take an extremely lenient approach to enforcement.

Letterbox companies therefore move thousands of empty vehicles across Europe to reach country clusters where they do their effective business. The return of the vehicle is meant to address exactly that: To ensure that hauliers are established in the place where they run their business. Such a shift would not only reduce the carbon emissions, but also ensure fair competition and better conditions for drivers in road transport. Thus, it is not the return of the vehicle that harms the environment but the letterbox business model in itself.

More precisely, having companies established where they effectively run their business will contribute to fair competition between hauliers; limit wage dumping practices and turn road transport from a low-cost service into a sustainable sector. This will eventually reduce the gap between road and rail transport and encourage a modal shift.

The ETF hopes that the CJEU will take into account these arguments and will rule in favor of the return of the vehicle. We strongly encourage all institutions and stakeholders to defend the Mobility Package in its entirety.