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According to Nordic freight associations, drivers and trade unions, wage dumping, violation of driving time and rest periods as well as living in a lorry, staying in the home country only every six months in extreme cases, is the reality on Europe’s roads. However, following the liberalisation of road freight transport, the European Commission is sitting back, putting the ball in the corner of European Social partners and EU Member States. They could enter a dialogue and improve controls, was the little helpful comment of the Commission.
The sometimes rather extremely precarious and inacceptable working conditions for HGV drivers were discussed during a discussion event organised by the European Parliament. Erik Ostergaard, CEO of the Nordic Logistics Association, said that the pressure on Nordic haulage companies would steadily increase. In the past, costs for freight transport were divided into equal thirds, i.e. capital costs for HGVs, fuel costs and wages. Vehicle and fuel costs had remained constant; however, hauliers from other EU countries would massively push wages down. There were for example Filipino drivers with Latvian vehicle documents, who would drive on European roads for 670 Euro a month. Due to such wage and social dumping, Denmark alone had lost 9,000 jobs over the past four years.

Another problem for Nordic hauliers was the so-called cabotage rule. Cabotage is the carriage of goods between two points in one EU Member State by an operator based in another EU Member State. In particular the cabotage of German hauliers would be a problem for Danish transport companies: with regard to cross-border transport, the market share of Danish hauliers had fallen from 50 to 20 %, whilst German HGV drivers were able to increase their share from 30 to 50 % and East European drivers theirs from under 10 to over 20 %.

Mariusz Krawczyk, a lorry driver from France, described the current situation of East European HGV drivers. These colleagues would live, sleep and eat on car parks. Their work was extremely badly paid and they would see their families only rarely. According to his information, the wage difference of an East European compared to a French driver would be about 1,000 Euro. Krawczyk commented that only 15 to 20 years ago, the job of lorry driver was sought after by young people. Today, in spite of high unemployment rates, the bad working conditions meant that nobody is interested anymore.

Roberto Parrillo, President of the European Transport Workers' Federation, largely confirmed the observations of the French lorry driver. What was needed was fair competition; unfortunately, it did not exist in practice. Apart from that, nobody would control existing legal provisions; there were frequent breaches of the law and many cases of social dumping. His Estonian trade union colleague Peep Peterson added that working conditions had tremendously deteriorated over the past twenty years: in the past, there had been 2 people in the driver’s cabin, accommodation at a hotel had been a matter of course and wages had been appropriate. All this no longer existed.

The Commission, which had pushed the liberalisation of road freight transport forward, disappointed at the discussion event: according to the Commission, social partners shall enter a dialogue and Member States should strengthen road checks. Unfortunately, there was no mention of repairing the legal bases, which obviously significantly contributed to the current situation. Hence, an early end of wage and social dumping on European roads seems to be a long way off.