On 31 May 2017, the Commission presented the Mobility Package “Europe on the Move”. The Commission’s objective is to make road transport in Europe cleaner, fairer, more competitive and more connected. In order to achieve this, amendments and recasts of eight Regulations and Directives have been presented. The Federal Chamber of Labour has intensively reviewed the proposals and reached a sobering conclusion: individual positive improvements are confronted with a number of critical amendments, which on the one hand further increases the risk of social dumping on Europe’s roads and further escalates competition at the expense of employees. On the other hand, there are no incentives to promote the switch to more environmentally friendly modes of transport.
Two of the eight dossiers provide for changes with regard to occupation and market access of road hauliers. Here, above all, one has to welcome the efforts by the Commission to avoid letterbox companies. In contrast to this is the far-reaching opening of the so-called cabotage provisions. These refer to goods transports within a country, which are undertaken by foreign companies. Whilst until now, foreign companies were able to undertake three journeys within seven days within another country; according to the Commission's proposal, in future, the number of journeys within five days shall be unlimited. Hence, this represents a major opening of the cabotage provisions.
A Study by the trade union vida and the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber has shown that ca. 22 % of the internal good transport in Austria refers to cabotage. Of these ca. 15 % of the journeys have to be regarded as illegal as more than three journeys are undertaken within the seven days. Hence, the Commission proposal means that a large part of the illegal cabotage will not be combatted but just legalised.
In this context, one should also criticise the proposal of the Commission that in future the use of vehicles rented without a driver should also be possible for cabotage journeys. Until now, these vehicles were restricted to be used in cross-border transport. Thus, the Mobility Package represents a significant increase of the pressure of the domestic transport industry and its employees.
With regard to social legislation, the Commission proposes changes to driving and resting times for the regular weekly rest period. This should continue to be 45 hours; however, a reduction to at least 24 hours shall also be possible for two consecutive weeks. The fact that it will at the same time be ensured that this has to be offset by a subsequent weekly rest time, means for drivers the possibility to be at home for a longer period of time. Apart from that, the proposal makes it clear that regular weekly rest times may not be spent in the vehicle and that the company has to ensure the costs for accommodation.
From the point of the AK, there is no requirement to introduce special terms for roads good transport in case of postings. Based on the present proposal, the Posting of Workers Directive would only apply to cross-border journeys if a driver works for at least four days a month in another Member State. This would mean a significant disadvantage to the people affected compared to the current legal situation, as today the Posting of Workers Directive has to be applied from day one and therefore the claim to basic provisions of the host country, such as minimum wage or holiday entitlement for posted employees already exists from the first day.
One has to criticise the plan of the Commission to provide for intelligent tachographs for new HGVs only from 2019 and to grant a transition period of 15 years for vehicles, which are already on the road. In doing so, an important instrument, which would enable the monitoring of current provisions in respect of posting and cabotage are being kicked in the long grass, rather than making it mandatory as quickly as possible.
To make transport on Europe’s roads more environmentally friendly, the Commission also proposes an Amendment of the Eurovignette Directive. According to this, this Directive, which until now has been regulating the charge of tolls for HGVs, shall now be extended to passenger cars. The proposal concretely provides for disallowing Member States from 2028 to charge a time-based toll for automobiles (Vignettes) and to allow only kilometre-dependent systems. AK rejects this proposal, as it would mean massive extra costs for commuters in Austria. Apart from that, this would result in drivers taking diversions to other roads that are free of charge. However, the proposal also does not have any eco-political added value, as Member States are also not obliged to charge any toll in future.
Whilst toll charges for external costs (noise and air pollution) are no longer covered, Member States may also provide charges for congestion. Due to the fact that especially commuters, who cannot chose their working and commuting times, would be negatively affected by a congestion charge, these measures would exclusively mean additional costs for employees, without achieving any driving-related effects.
The proposal by the Commission to promote the interoperability of toll systems has to be regarded as positive. However, at the same time it has to be ensured that personal data of employees are protected. From the point of view of the AK, both the monitoring and reporting of CO2-emissions and the fuel consumption of new heavy-duty vehicles is also a step in the right direction. However, in order to avoid scandals as those relating to Diesel cars, the data collection has to be made available to the Commission and the public authorities of all Member States.