How Brussels is missing the mark with the new mobility package
CO2 emissions must be drastically reduced (40% in 2030 compared to 1990), our energy must become more sustainable with windmills and solar panels, from 2030 all new cars that leave the factory must be electrically powered (hydrogen or battery) and the livestock must be halved to significantly reduce nitrogen. Global warming must be reduced and sea level rise slowed. Yet, Europe wants to lead the way in sustainability and aims to become fully climate neutral in the short term.
The Mobility Package was created to create a transport sector with better social conditions for drivers. In itself, of course, this is a good aim! But in the perspective of sustainability and becoming climate neutral, I understand little of a number of rules in this new Mobility Package.
Return Home Vehicle
Part of these new transport rules in Europe is that all trucks must return every 8 weeks to the country where the vehicle is registered.
As everyone knows, there is a lot of driving by Eastern European drivers throughout Europe. In 2020, almost 100,000 drivers from Poland and another 150,000 drivers from other EU member states were driving around the Netherlands. That means that every 8 weeks 100,000 trucks will have to drive back and forth to Poland (mostly without cargo) to comply with the new rules. From Rotterdam to the Polish border is over 800 kilometers (1,600 kilometers round trip).
A quick and simple calculation brings us to 1,040,000,000 kilometers of ‘back and forth driving’ per year of Polish drivers alone in the Netherlands. This is equivalent to driving around the world 26,000 times and emitting over 900,000,000 kg of CO2 (assuming diesel) in order to comply with the new rules from Brussels. This sum only concerns Polish drivers in the Netherlands, let alone all the other foreign drivers spread throughout Europe! Of course, this cannot be the intention. In my view, Brussels has got it all wrong here.
Cabotage rules have been in place for a long time, but within the EU member states drivers were previously allowed to drive virtually without restriction. Cabotage means that goods are transported within the borders of a certain country, whereby that country is not one’s own.
From now on, drivers will literally have to juggle with their trips, as each driver is only allowed to make 3 trips in a maximum of 7 days per member state, after which they are obliged to observe a “cooling off” period of 4 days in the relevant member state. Our own drivers drive within the EU in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. It is becoming a bizarre puzzle to make a planning per driver per member state that ensures that they only do 3 trips and then have to ‘cool off’ for another 4 days. So for the planners in the industry, this is also an engine for increasing the workload.
In my opinion, this rule in no way contributes to improving the working conditions of the drivers and only hinders transport between the different member states in Europe.
Working conditions for drivers
Let me conclude on a positive note because, in the base, there are of course many things good about the Mobility Package. Ensuring fair remuneration for drivers, sufficient rest, a balance between work and private life and an improvement of the drivers’ facilities can only be encouraged.
Drivers also have families and relatives at home, so they should be given the opportunity to be at home with reasonable regularity. In the new Mobility Package, this becomes an obligation on the employer who must start ensuring that his employees are home every 3 or 4 weeks. Months on the road and sleeping in the cabin are now thankfully a thing of the past in Europe.
The transport sector is crucial to society and the drivers are the backbone of the transport sector. It is only right that all drivers in Europe are paid well and fairly. In the end, we all have to contribute to this!
– Thomas Hilbrands