Europe's truck wars: Differences over EU's mobility package rage on

The EU’s mobility package has finally begun moving, with the first regulations being rolled out across the continent last week. But the controversy surrounding it is far from over. The legislation aims to strengthen the working conditions of truck drivers and ensure fair competition within the single market.

Drivers are often forced to spend their weekends in parking lots, driving long hours and not seeing their families for weeks on end. One truck driver from Belgium, Roger Deville, said: “It’s not a life for a human being to sleep in the parking lot.” “I think it’s [the mobility package] a really good thing, and I think that many people were waiting for this,” he added. “It will help for the fair competition of the companies, it will also calm down a lot of countries who are not playing the game as they should play, it will even help the guys to earn a little bit more.”

Since August 20, drivers are supposed to go back to their company base every 3rd or 4th week. One of the biggest changes, however, is that they cannot spend their weekend breaks in their trucks. Employers are now supposed to pay for them to rent a hotel room.

But Istvan Galambos, a Hungarian trucking company owner, said there are not enough parking places on the highways, let alone hotel rooms for drivers to stay in. “I think the EU rushed into this and it would be good to have a moratorium, since the material conditions are missing,” he said. “The driver has to leave the truck and load behind, take a taxi to a hotel 20 kilometres away, but in many cases, we can’t even find a parking spot, let alone a hotel in these areas. “I believe that these are market protection measures disguised as social measures between Western Europe and the EU Member States that have joined since 2004.”

The measures could also reduce the competitiveness of Eastern European companies, as they will lose well-paid jobs in the West, and for many, this will mean the end of their business. Nevertheless, Lithuania is preparing a legal case against the mobility package at the European Court of Justice. Roberto Parillo, a specialist from the European Transport Federation – who was involved in the legislative process – said that there is “no discrimination”.

He said that there is proof the text is balanced because certain central European countries actually voted for it.

“We must ensure that all companies have the same opportunities to compete in all markets,” he added. “It will take some time, but we must do it together if we want to build a Europe where everyone is on the same footing.”

In September the application of the new measures will be closely watched across Europe, so the contentious issue of the mobility package is far from over.

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