Following negotiations that lasted more than three years, the Mobility Package has taken the last hurdle on 8 July 2020: none of the submitted objections found a majority in the European Parliament. Hence, important improvements for HGV and bus drivers came into effect – but also changes for the worse.
It was May 2017, when the European Commission presented the Mobility Package with the aim to make road transport fairer, more competitive and more sustainable. This Package comprises three proposals, which were to become the most controversial dossiers of the past legislative period: an exemption for professional drivers from the Posting of Workers Directive, the amendment of the Regulation on driving time and rest periods as well as new regulations on market access for transport services. The recent confirmation of the trilogue result by the European Parliament, which was newly elected in May 2019, is a classic compromise, which contains both positive provisions and critical alterations.
The probably greatest change for worse regarding the current legal situation is the now decided exemption for professional drivers from the Posting of Workers Directive. With the hardly convincing reasoning that the Posting of Workers Directive would be difficult to apply to drivers in international transport, this group is now the only one, which ensures a legal exemption from the Directive. This Directive ensures the principle of “equal pay for equal work at the same place”. As a result, companies are able to apply the more favourable pay of the country where the journey starts for cross-border journeys, which begin in the country of establishment, independent of how many days a journey lasts. Two additional stops for loading and unloading on this journey are also allowed. Regarding the fact the minimum wage for the transport sector is around 1,500 euro in Austria, compared to 300 euro in Rumania and Bulgaria, one must conclude that the new provision is at the expense of employees, but also of companies located in the countries of destination.
The amendments to the driving time and rest periods provide among other for making it possible for cross-border journeys to reduce the weekly rest period for two consecutive weeks from 45 to 24 hours. However, at the same time, transport companies are now obliged to plan the work of their drivers in such a way, that they can return to their place of residence or permanent establishment once a month. Apart from that, it has now been clearly regulated that the regularly weekly rest period of 45 hours may not be spent in the driver’s cabin and that the transport company has to bear the costs of accommodation. Furthermore, all regulation on driving time and rest periods now apply to vehicles from 2.5 tons and not only from 3.5 tons. This shall prevent bypassing this regulation by using smaller vehicles.
As the transport sector at European level continues to be a market, which does not allow fair competition between countries with high and low economy and wage level, restrictions for national journeys continue to apply. The so-called cabotage, hence domestic journeys, which are undertaken by foreign companies, is still limited to three journeys within a period of one week. The Commission had proposed a further relaxation, which, however, will not take place. At the same time, vehicles have to return to the country of their registration after eight weeks at the latest, which shall make the construction of letterbox companies less attractive. However, the Commission reserves the right to review this provision, giving the reason that this would promote empty runs, which would contradict the target of the Green Deal.
To enable the executive to better control the existing provisions, it is of vital importance to make state-of-the-art digital tachographs compulsory as soon as possible. Based on a transition period of four years, this will now happen ten years earlier than originally proposed by the Commission. Apart from that, supervisory bodies shall also be able to take remote readings of the tachographs in respect of exceeding driving times in future, which renders stopping HGVs no longer necessary. This creates an important premise to curb the exploitation of driving personnel and the violation of existing regulations and in doing so to drive forward the protection of drivers against wage and social dumping on Europe’s roads.