ECG Dinner Debate 2018

ECG Dinner Debate 2018

ECG had the pleasure of holding its annual Dinner Debate on 20 March 2018, kindly hosted by MEP Wim van de Camp in the European Parliament. The event, entitled “Our Multimodal industry and the Mobility Package – what do we need?” was an ideal opportunity to learn more about this series of EU road transport related initiatives and to hear from four drivers present in the room on how their lives are impacted by these changes.

On March 20, ECG held their Annual Dinner Debate on the theme of ‘Our Multimodal Industry and the Mobility Package – what do we need?’ Whilst speakers brought up many opportunities and challenges currently facing the industry, three issues emerged as central to the discussion: the need to ensure an adequate number of safe and secure parking places available for drivers; drivers’ rest times; and the need to make drivers’ conditions more appealing to encourage more young people to join the profession. Please see below for a full summary of the event.

Welcome and Setting the Scene

Wim van de Camp (EPP, NL) took the floor and welcomed guests. He stated ECG constituted a niche in the world of European transport. The core business of the EU is the internal market. The core aim of the EU is the free flow of goods, people, capital and services and many people seem to have forgotten this in light of Brexit and additional challenges. The internal market must be constantly improved and there are always obstacles to address, such as fair competition within the EU.

Moreover, he questioned what the working conditions of truck drivers currently is. In 2022, there will be a deficit of 100,000 drivers in the EU and thus policymakers must focus on how the attractiveness of the job can be improved. In addition, digitalisation is a key issue and is changing every year. To improve the internal market, Commissioner Bulc proposed, on May 31 2017, the first mobility package. It concerns such issues as posting of workers, cabotage and rest times.

The second mobility package came out on November 2017, which includes the decarbonisation of the transport sector and, in May, part three of the mobility package will be proposed; and the tunnel safety regulations will be included under this. Tonight’s aim is to pay special attention to the year of multi-modality, he stressed. He hoped to hear the drivers talk at tonight’s event so as to hear what is being done wrong under the mobility package and what is being done right under the package. On drivers’ conditions, there are many pertinent issues, such as when it comes to digital tachographs and rest periods. Following this, Mr van de Camp stated the main focus of the mobility package was to improve flexibility for company owners, improve the lives of drivers and convince drivers to join the industry. Clear answers are required going forward, he finished.

Wolfgang Göbel, ECG President, Chief Sales Officer, Mosolf SE & Co KG, welcomed guests and noted ECG celebrated its twentieth anniversary last year. He stated the ECG serves the automotive industry, from the release of the car from the factory to the delivery to the dealer. Multimodal transport encompasses many modes of travel, including road, rail and barge and the mission is to secure a common platform for the finished vehicle logistics industry in Europe. ECG counts more than 100 members, including in non-EU countries, such as Russia, Turkey and the Ukraine and represents more than 85 per cent of the sector.

Regarding an intermodal journey of a vehicle, a car could arrive from Japan in a port in Northern Europe. A colleague might then deliver it by truck or rail to the first compound. Moreover, education is key for the ECG and there are more than 200 alumni who have been trained at the ECG Academy.

Regarding information and awareness, reports are regularly sent out to stakeholders. EU regulations continuously enter into force and awareness amongst members about legislative developments is undertaken. Moreover, networking is also a key part and there is a spring conference held every year.

In addition, standardisation is also important, and there are two important working groups which focus on common standards for connected cars and working on capacity and forecasting to manage expectation so that operators know what they must deliver on. A further issue when it comes to standardisation concerns a lobbying campaign for the harmonisation regarding loaded lengths of car transporters and the objective is to secure 20.75 metres in length across EU Member States.

On information and awareness, the sector and the industry must be made more attractive to potential young drivers. In Germany, there is already a need for more than 40,000 drivers and the average age is 47 for a driver. In the UK, the average age is even higher at 55 and 45,000-52,000 additional drivers are needed today in the UK.

Concerning the mobility package, he underlined that 70 per cent of the ECG’s members work in the road transport sector and therefore this package is of central importance.  Enforcement must be clear, simple and under refined control provision. Simplifying cabotage should also be ensured, he stated.

On e-CMR, he expressed hope this would become a reality with the new government in Germany. Additionally, a big question remains: should international drivers be considered as posted workers? Flexibility regarding weekly rest periods is also required to attract new drivers, he highlighted. Outside the driver’s cabin, the quality of rest stops is a real issue. Parking lots are already full and more capacity is needed. Certain initiatives put forward by the ECG in this regard include the possibility to invest in driver hotels on compounds. Concluding, he hoped the discussion this evening would be fruitful. 

A Driver’s View

Moderator: Jan Bergrath

Drivers:

Adam Jaroszuk – Adampol

Stephan Scholz – MOSOLF Group

Paul van de Vlag – Koopman Group

Kamil Wilczewski - Adampol

Moderator Jan Bergrath brought the four drivers up on stage and introduced them. He stated he was a driver in the 1980s when there were fewer rules back then. He asked the two Polish drivers what they believed the biggest problems were at the moment.

Adam Jaroszuk answered that the biggest problem is safety, particularly when drivers stop for the night. When drivers wake up in the morning, they have to check and make sure that everything is okay. He said that every night he is afraid, as anything could happen. He then clarified that normally he was on the road for two weeks before returning home.

Kamil Wilczewski stated he was on the road for three weeks maximum at a time.

Paul van de Vlag noted he was on the road for 5 days and then he went back home.

Moderator Jan Bergrath remarked that Germany is the largest transport country and that 43 per cent of the trucks at any given time are from abroad, with Polish trucks making up the largest number of non-German trucks. Germany lacks approximately 14,000 carpark spaces and certified parking spaces are required. He asked the drivers about this issue.

Adam Jaroszuk agreed that parking is a big problem. Oftentimes it is impossible to find safe parking in Germany.

Moderator Jan Bergrath noted there are many spaces in France and also in Russia but there are no secure parking spaces in Germany. Drivers do not know where to go during their rest hours. He asked if they would go to a hotel.

Adam Jaroszuk replied that he preferred staying in his truck.

Moderator Jan Bergrath said he was aware that for drivers their truck is their castle. He asked the Dutch drivers what their main issue is, noting that accidents involving trucks in Germany are on the rise.

Stephan Scholz said that more parking places are required.

Moderator Jan Bergrath asked Mr van de Camp how he could ensure more parking places are introduced.

Wim van de Camp noted that when clear regulations are implemented, the market will follow. He stated his aim was to make a regulation that is clear and concise. His proposal was to respect driving and rest times and the drivers’ safety and rest. Good parking places with adequate sanitation facilities and security are required. He had heard that on January 1, the German government started a subsidy programme whereby the drivers pay €4.19 per night for a safe parking place. Drivers and safe parking places must be invested in, he underlined.

ECG President Wolfgang Göbel agreed that the EU cannot pay for parking places but, rather, it must come from Member States.

Moderator Jan Bergrath asked the drivers who pays for the parking.

Adam Jaroszuk stated the company pays for it.

Moderator Jan Bergrath noted that lay-bys in Germany are often free of charge but they are usually located beside the motorway and are full. Parking is not part of the system and this is the issue, he said.

Adam Jaroszuk stated Autohof is not necessarily safe even though they have to pay to stay for the night. 

Moderator Jan Bergrath, addressing Mr Jaruszuk, noted he had heard he would be happy with the new regulations.

Adam Jaroszuk agreed as often he has to take a 24-hour break only 150 kilometres before he reaches home.

Wim van de Camp stated there was an amendment so called ‘the Friday afternoon amendment’. It is designed to be flexible for drivers who are close to home. He asked how many days they work per month.

Stephan Scholz replied that he was on the road 20 or 22 days per month.

Kamil Wilczewski said around 19 or 20 days per month.

Danuta Jazłowiecka (EPP, PL) asked how many hours drivers were driving each day. She asked about the solution to drive for 4.5 hours after a 2-hour break. She then asked about resting times. Finally, she asked about the way home. She wondered how their way back can be paid if the driver decides to take holidays. One proposal has been that the employer will pay the way back home and will count how much they have to pay, regardless of where the driver is going.

Moderator Jan Bergrath stated that drivers are put on a minibus from countries such as Romania and this concerns a problematic issue.

Wim van de Camp said this issue particularly concerns drivers from peripheral countries in Europe. He clarified the employer has to pay the journey home. However, if the driver decides to go elsewhere, a fixed amount is given and the driver can do as they like. 

Michael Cramer (Greens/EFA, DE) asked what the difference is regarding wages between Eastern and Western drivers.

Adam Jaroszuk said they work the same job as their counterparts from Western Europe but often have to spend one weekend in the truck. When he arrives home, he has one week break.

Michael Cramer noted that one driver from Romania told the Parliament he always slept in the truck and was paid Romanian minimum wages when working in Western Europe.

Moderator Jan Bergrath said the big problem concerned Western European companies opening letterbox companies in countries such as Romania and this should be stopped by the posting of workers directive.

Ray MacDowall, ECM, noted that the drivers all agreed the lack of parking facilities was the biggest issue. He remarked he had spent a week on the road with one driver and the experience shocked him. For example, no parking was available when they ran out of driving time. The only option was to continue, although they were exceeding the driving time. This shows problems the drivers face on a day to day basis; safe parking places are required for all drivers. The suggestion that the industry should provide the parking is absurd, he stated.

Moderator Jan Bergrath remarked that a real issue is also the increase in the number of trucks on roads each year. The infrastructure is struggling to cope with the yearly additions.

Jocelyn Fajardo, Deputy Head of the Cabinet of Commissioner Bulc, European Commission, then took the floor for his remarks and noted he had been asked to react to the drivers’ comments. He stated that this is not the first time he had heard drivers speak about their experiences and provide input and the comments raised were reassuring as they are addressed by the proposal issued in May of last year. Safe parking is clearly a key topic, in addition to issues such as returning home, posting of workers, wages, letterbox companies and the use of tachographs, amongst others. The proposals are now on the Council’s and Parliament’s tables and the ball is in their court. It is essential these issues are adequately addressed through the adoption of the mobility package and he hoped this would happen by the end of the current Parliament’s mandate. Moreover, the Bulgarian Presidency is committed and work within Council are progressing.

More specifically, he acknowledged there was a lack of safe and secure parking places in Europe. It is first and foremost Member States’ responsibilities. Concerning the TEN-T network there is a legal obligation to ensure parking places are put in place. Calls have been launched to co-finance these facilities; however, he noted the number of calls received have not matched expectations. Investment in facilities can only occur if Member States provide an adequate environment for this. Further incentives can be provided to public and private investors to create the required facilities.

Moreover, the Parliament launched a pilot project last year to identify adequate parking places throughout Europe. Some remain empty and there must be a match between supply and demand. A study designed to identify additional actions which can be launched to provide safe parking spaces is also being undertaken. Sanitary facilities are required for drivers and adequate parking places must include a whole series of services.

The safest place for rest is home, he highlighted, and the proposal contains an incentive for drivers to return home on a regular basis. Many drivers are away from home for weeks and even months and this is currently not a breach of existing EU rules. Thus, Commissioner Bulc is attempting to tackle this though the proposal. Returns home should take place a minimum of every three weeks and it will be discussed in Council and Parliament. Regular return home is necessary and the gap in the existing legislation in this regard should be plugged.

Returns home may address the 45-hour rest issue; however, daily rest requires adequate parking places. The EU cannot address this through prohibition, he said, referring to a recent announcement by Danish authorities that they did not want trucks to remain in the same place for more than 24 hours at a time.

Concerning breaks, the proposal also intends to address the issue of flexibility when it comes to reaching the final destination. Quantifying this will also be the subject of ongoing negotiations and flexibility must be designed so that it does not compromise road safety. On the issue of daily driving time and rest, he noted he had heard concerns regarding reducing or extending driving time; the Commission is not proposing to change either driving time or minimum rest time. Flexibility is being offered in how rest times are taken; the well-being of drivers and road safety is of critical importance, he stressed.

Regarding the return home, this is the operators’ obligation. If drivers want to spend their rest times in a place other than home, this should be allowed. Concerning wages and posting, different regulations and rules are in place in terms of where the contract needs to be established. Road transport is already covered by the directive on the posting of workers; however, there is scope for adapting how this applies to road transport, specifically when it comes to international services. When it comes to cabotage, it should apply from the first day; however, this becomes more complicated when international services are concerned. The Commission has proposed that the threshold is set at three days and also rules to calculate this threshold. A large majority believes that proportionality should apply, he stated. This also relates to the issue of letterbox companies and he stated he was pleased there was a broad consensus that establishment rules must be made more clear and concise.

On controls, he noted the Commission intends to ensure enforcement of digital tachographs. Member States must also be equipped with relevant enforcement tools. Controls must be simplified, less burdensome and targeted, he underlined.

 

Questions and Answers Session

Moderator Mike Sturgeon, ECG Executive Director, then opened the floor for questions.

Nik Delmeire, European Shippers’ Council, said that service providers must take care of inventory; this means moving stock such as trucks. He noted he had seen a lot of investment undertaken in warehouses, but what he had rarely seen was service providers investing in parking places. He asked what is keeping them from investing in carparking space.

ECG President Wolfgang Göbel stated they were ready to invest. He said his point earlier was that it cannot only be done by private investors however.

A member of the Audience noted that if drivers belonged to an ‘uber’ style of logistical set up, the trucks could be in use for 24 hours a day. Drivers could then decide which routes they want to work and it could entail better compensation and standards for drivers. He asked the Commission if this option had been considered, thus taking this from management of an asset problem to management of a ‘people problem.’

Jocelyn Fajardo said there is a daily driving limit which is above 6 hours. Returning home relates to the driver and not to the truck. Therefore, a truck can continue to operate across Europe and thus the asset can continue to be in use.

Jane Collins (EFDD, UK) noted the average age for drivers in the UK is 55. Somebody coming into the profession must pass their tests and this all costs money. To encourage younger drivers, there should be a scheme to promote new drivers to help them pass their licences. If younger people are not encouraged to drive then any benefits are of no use anyway.

Moderator Mike Sturgeon stated he had heard by the time drivers reach 21 and can apply for their licence, many have already picked another profession.

Ray MacDowall, ECM, remarked that the road training transport board provided subsided training in the UK in the past and every fleet operator paid into this on a pro-rata basis. This encouraged a lot of people to enter the industry and this type of government orchestrated programme should be rekindled. The industry pays, and the industry reaps the reward. He then asked MEPs why lorry parks cannot be an extension of the road transport network. The government must be proactive in this regard, he stated.

Danuta Jazłowiecka asked whether posting rules should be applied to drivers and she asked how much the different drivers earned. On the 3-day period for cabotage, she asked if the Commission could elaborate on this.

Jocelyn Fajardo stated the Commission had conducted an impact assessment and 3 days was found to best suit when it came to proportionality. Rules should be as simple and enforceable as possible.

Michael Cramer asked what the difference is between wages for Western and Eastern drivers.

Moderator Mike Sturgeon gave the floor to Mr van de Camp for his concluding remarks as they were running out of time.

Closing Remarks

Wim van de Camp said he wanted to talk about law making in the Parliament. The basic main rules are formed first and only after can there be exceptions. Malta and Cyprus are always exceptions in this regard, for example, given that they are islands. Drivers away from their home for eight weeks are the exceptions rather than the rule and this is not the full story as the majority of workers are contracted under decent employment conditions.

Therefore, enforcement in Member States needs to be ensured. He supported differences in wages and stressed that everyone earning the same across the EU would be to misunderstand the purpose of the single market. For example, Polish drivers’ salaries are rising and the Parliament must take care that it does not interfere in the free market. He noted a Dutch entrepreneur who wanted to build parking places in Germany told him there are hundreds of old army barracks which could be refurbished and turned into parking places.

He then gave the example of when anti-locking brakes were first introduced. At the beginning they were prohibitively expensive and the solution was to make them compulsory which then pushed down the price through competition in the market; the same could be done for parking places. Moreover, companies’ compounds can be used for private parking during the weekends. The initiative needs to be taken by entrepreneurs across Europe, he concluded.

Moderator Mike Sturgeon thanked participants for their attendance and said he looked forward to the next event.

(By Simon Conheady, from DODS EU Monitoring)