What are the main changes being introduced by the Mobility Package?
The EU Mobility Package is organized into different modules that take effect one after another. The first module introduces new rules on regular weekly rest times for drivers of vehicles weighing more than 3.5 metric tons and contains provisions on drivers returning to their home countries or their employer’s business establishment. Weekly rest times can no longer be spent inside the vehicle. The “return-to-base” rules are more complicated. They create something that is closer to an option than an obligation. Employers now have to enable employees to return home and document this offer for future audits. The new rules also require trucks to return to base and modify existing cabotage rules. However, the new cabotage rules will not take effect until February 2022.
What is inTime’s take, as a company, on the new European rules?
We generally welcome the changes instituted by the Mobility Package, especially the ones that make trucking a more attractive and appreciated profession, which is sorely needed. However, it’s important to look closely at each individual change and evaluate it on its merits. For example, the return-to-base requirements in the regulation are far from clear. Also, it will be challenging to find a way for drivers to spend all their weekly rest time outside the truck cab. The primary problem, in our view, is the lack of sufficient truck stop infrastructure. The shortage of truck parking spaces is one thing. The absence of hotel rooms is something else entirely. How will drivers find suitable accommodations, and what qualifies as “suitable”? Should they drive their trucks to the nearest town? Or park their vehicles, which are usually filled with valuable cargo, at a rest stop and take a taxi to their hotel? These are all additional questions that drivers will have to answer during their work hours.
How can these problems be solved?
The decision-makers who passed the European Mobility Package have laid a solid foundation consisting of carefully crafted rules. However, they have to stay on the ball and keep an eye on the overall market situation. For example, we see a huge need for infrastructure investments along the highways. The right conditions have to be created so the initiators of the Mobility Package can ensure that circumstances will improve for drivers. inTime proactively laid the groundwork for its own organization and, by extension, for professional truckers and provided planning certainty regarding driving and work times. For example, it ensures that its drivers return home at least every two weeks.
How are individual EU members implementing the Mobility Package?
EU regulations become automatically binding throughout the EU on the day they take effect. Unlike directives, they do not have to be transposed into national law. If an EU regulation is transposed into national law, the member states are free to impose tighter restrictions than those set out in the regulation. France is a good example. It extended the weekly rest time requirements to include drivers of small trucks up to 3.5 metric tons and all daily rest times. You won’t find those requirements in the Mobility Package. The real question, though, is, how will the other EU member states respond? That will make things operationally tricky for us as a third-party logistics service provider. Suitable control mechanisms will have to be put in place. These factors are what will determine whether the entire construct succeeds or fails.
What will inspections look like?
In Germany, inspections will be performed by the Federal Office for Goods Transport (BAG). It’s not yet clear what the individual inspections will actually look like. One possibility is to include them with regular roadside checks of traveling trucks. Another is to check parked trucks in urban areas or near logistics centers where drivers spend their breaks. Finally, the digital tachograph is supposed to be implemented together with the Mobility Package. That means the inspectors will most likely be able to read out defined data (vehicle data, safety violation information and past malfunctions) from trucks as they drive by. The goal is to be both digital and transparent.
Will the Mobility Package change market structures?
Absolutely. Especially when it comes to recruiting professional truckers and dealing with the skilled labor shortage. The job has lost much of its romantic, adventurous allure. Instead, it suffers from a rather negative image: long work hours, stressful conditions, unattractive pay. Demographic change has affected trucking much as it has other professions: More people are retiring than hiring on as truckers. Luckily, the Mobility Package has improved the image of the trucking profession. That’s a good first step. Unfortunately, it will not increase the number of drivers in the market overall. We believe it is safe to say that higher transportation costs will push up freight rates, which will ultimately be borne by consumers.