The Mobility Package, which was extremely controversially discussed by the EU institutions since May 2017, is nearing completion. As this Package newly regulates the working and social conditions for HGV and bus drivers as well as market access for transport companies, it could have made a large contribution to the fight against wage and social dumping. However, the agreement of the trilogue negotiations between Council, Parliament and Commission, which was reached on 12th December 2019, only provides actual improvements for the driving personnel in some points.
One of the key positive results of the trilogue between Commission, Council and Parliament is the early introduction of “smart tachographs”, which automatically register border crossings, loading and unloading. The Commission had only planned the latest generation of tachographs for 2034. However, Parliament and Council have now agreed on 2025. This is important because it significantly increases the enforcement of current rules, which means that it would be easier to prevent abuse. At the same time, Member States have to ensure that their national control bodies are equipped with suitable scanners as quickly as possible, not making use of their four-year transition period.
Also positive is the result regarding the cabotage, hence, domestic transport by foreign companies. In this case, the Council prevailed: it had demanded to retain the current regulation (three cabotage journeys within a period of seven days). Both Commission and Parliament had taken the view to enable an unlimited number of journeys over a period of three days. This would have made a large number of illegal cabotage journeys legal, as confirmed by a Study of Vida and the Chamber of Commerce. An additional so-called “cooling off” phase of four days, based on which the HGV - subsequent to the cabotage journeys in a Member State - has to leave this country again, contributes to preventing abuse.
Regarding the Regulation on driving times and rest periods for HGV drivers, the trilogue outcome is however sobering. The calculation period for the weekly rest periods will be extended from two to four weeks. This enables drivers to take two reduced weekly rest periods in succession. It also enables drivers to work up to 17 days in a row with a break of only two days. This regulation puts even more pressure on the driving personnel and provides them with even fewer recreational phases, which does not increase transport safety. Hence, little relief comes from the clarification that it is not permitted to spend the regular weekly rest period of 45 hours in the HGV or on the bus; even more so as this is also an applicable law, which has also been confirmed by the European Court of Justice. Added to this, that there is no express statement that the driver has to return home after the third week; she or he is only obliged to return to the company location, irrespective of how far it is from the actual residence of the driver.
Compared to the status quo, drivers will also be worse off with regard to their pay: whilst until now they have been regarded as posted workers, which means that the principle of “equal pay for equal work at the same place” also applies to them, a special regulation has now been adopted for transport personnel (“lex Specialis”): according to this, the Posting of Workers Directive does no longer apply to bilateral journeys, irrespective of their duration and of how many days they go across Europe. Apart from that, even two stops for loading and unloading are permissible. No special regulation and thereby no Lex Specialis would be needed to ensure drivers’ fair pay; however, no majority for this could be found either in Parliament or Council.
Before the three adopted dossiers can come into force they have to be confirmed by Council and Parliament. Usually, the confirmation of the trilogue results is just a formal act. However, when dealing with controversial legislative texts, like the Mobility Package, one cannot rule out further discussions and a crucial vote. After all, several MEPs had defined red lines, for example that the regulation on weekly rest periods must be not changed. Hence, it is possible that the last word has not yet been spoken.