Mobility Package: Commission paves the way for the future of the European road transport sector

On 31 May, the Commission presented its Mobility Package, a comprehensive strategy outlining the future of the road transport sector in the European Union. Besides the Communication titled “Europe on the Move” which lays out the general strategy, the Package includes eight legislative proposals in different areas related to road transport that could have far-reaching consequences for the sector for many years to come.

The aims outlined in the Communication can be grouped according to four categories. First of all, there are initiatives to accelerate efforts for a shift towards clean and sustainable mobility, including efforts to achieve zero-emission mobility. Secondly, the Commission aims to make the road transport market fairer and more competitive, while taking into account the social dimension as well. Thirdly, it aims to speed up digitisation across all areas of the transport sector in order to raise efficiency and reduce administrative burdens. Lastly, it proposes large-scale investments in a modern road infrastructure, through both private and public expenditure.

Member States have been long pushing for reforms with regards to road mobility, but it has taken a significant amount of time for the Commission to come up with a balanced agenda it felt could satisfy all stakeholders. Since the proposals will have substantial consequences for the whole sector, they are still expected to spark heated debates among representatives of EU institutions, Member States and the private sector. This briefing will present the main reasons behind the need for such a package and will outline the significance of the proposals it contains.

The state of the transport sector in the EU

Although the EU is one of the most developed areas in the world in terms of mobility, it still has a lot of room for improvement, especially in terms of making transport cleaner, applying the latest technological innovations and encouraging investment in road infrastructure, which has been fairly low since the global economic crisis.

In terms of making mobility cleaner, the Commission has previously put forward the goal of reducing greenhouse emissions by 60% by 2050, although it admitted that this has hitherto led to very few noticeable results. The Communication highlights that reducing emissions is not only relevant for the climate but also with regards to human health, since – according to some studies – three times as many people die due to transport-related pollution than in traffic accidents, while millions suffer from diseases for which vehicle emissions are directly responsible. At the same time, road safety experts argue that the number of accidents could also be significantly reduced via the latest digital technologies, better law-making and stronger enforcement.

In parallel, digitisation is expected to significantly disrupt both consumer behaviour and employment structures related to the transport sector. Young people are less and less susceptible to view owning a car as a major life goal and are starting to embrace innovative, flexible and affordable modes of transport, which can lead to enhanced efficiency. At the same time, the spread of autonomous vehicles will make a significant impact on both prices and the workforce, potentially making professions such as taxi or lorry drivers obsolete. The Commission highlights the need for a comprehensive social dialogue and for support mechanisms to ensure a smooth transition for workers in these industries.

In brief, the Mobility Package is a more than just a collection of proposals; it is a highly comprehensive set of initiatives which will serve as the very foundation of the European Union’s approach to transport at large in the next few years, and will have a profound effect on the European economy.

The proposals

To implement its vision for Europe’s mobility in 2025, the Commission presented a package of proposals together with the Communication, which will be complemented by more proposals later in 2017 and early 2018.

1. Heavy-Duty Vehicle Emissions

In order to promote emission standards, the Commission presented a proposal on the monitoring and reporting of the CO2 emissions and fuel consumption of heavy-duty vehicles. Manufacturers and Member States would have to collect data, as measured and certified via a newly developed Vehicle Energy Consumption Calculation (VECTO) tool, and submit it to a publicly available central register. The Commission in turn would publish an analysis on the data in an annual report, arguing that the data would enhance market transparency, stimulate the uptake of fuel-efficient vehicles and facilitate differentiation in road charging. In line with the proposal, the Commission is considering whether to propose emission limits for heavy-duty vehicles, with a decision expected to be made during the first half of 2018.

2. Road Charging

The Commission proposes to extend EU rules on charging for the use of infrastructure from only heavy goods vehicles to all vehicles, thus including cars, vans and buses. In line with its “user pays” and “polluter pays” principles, the proposal would aim to phase out time-based vignettes by 2027 (2023 for heavy-duty vehicles) and instead promote distance-based charging.

The use of zero-emission vehicles would furthermore be supported through reduced charges, and Member States would be provided with the possibility to impose congestion charges, and charges the external costs of air and noise pollution. The Commission also presented a related proposal for a Council Directive which would clarify that the existing provisions on taxation would apply to heavy goods vehicles only and would gradually lower the minima for vehicle taxes.

3. Electronic Tolls

The aim of this proposal is to revise the Directive (2004/52/EC) on the interoperability of electronic toll systems in the EU (EETS Directive), in order to achieve a deeper and wider interoperability between national (digital) toll systems. The Commission envisions a system where haulage companies would be able to use one “toll tag” to cross the continent, which would help to facilitate the cross-border mobility of goods and people by reducing the administrative burden for both citizens and businesses.

The proposal also contains initiatives to tackle so-called “failure to pay” issues, whereby a user fails to pay the required road fee in one Member State, by promoting more effective exchange of user data and enhanced interoperability in order to facilitate cross-border enforcement and reduce administrative costs.

4. Road Haulage Market

In its proposal revising the legislation on access to the road haulage market and the occupation of road transport operator, the Commission proposes new rules to address problems related to cabotage, letterbox companies and unfair practices. With regards to cabotage, the Commission proposes to remove the limit of 3 operations within 7 days, and instead replace it with only a time limit of 5 days. The Commission explains that these new rules would be easier for Member States to enforce – which they would be obliged to do for 2% of the cabotage operations as of 2020.

To address the issue of letterbox companies, the proposal would clarify the requirement of establishment with the aim to ensure that companies established in a Member State have their real and continuous activities there. Transport operators would furthermore be required to hold assets and employ staff in the Member State of establishment which is proportionate to its activity.

5. Vehicles hired without drivers

The Commission presented a legislative proposal revising Directive 2006/1/EC on the use of vehicles hired without drivers for the carriage of goods by road. An ex-post evaluation published along with the package found that although the previous Directive was very beneficial for operators, providing them both flexibility and cost savings of up to 10%, it lost effectiveness when Member States were allowed to restrict its application (for example by forbidding cross-border hiring). The Revision therefore would oblige the Member States to allow companies to use vehicles hired in one Member State all over the EU, for at least 4 months a year.

6. Social Legislation in Road Transport 1: driving and rest times

The Commission also presented two proposals on social legislation in road transport. The first proposal addresses rules on driving and rest times, and while it would not change the daily and weekly limits, it would allow drivers to arrange their rest periods in a more flexible manner. The proposal would also oblige transport companies to provide suitable accommodation for drivers when away from home, and schedule the drivers’ work in a way that would allow them to return home at least once every three weeks. The proposal would also amend EU rules on tachographs, notably by requiring smart tachographs to register every time the vehicle crosses a border.

7. Social Legislation in Road Transport 2: enforcement and posting of workers

The second proposal presented concerns the EU legislation on the enforcement of social rules in road transport and lays down regulations for the posting of drivers. With regards to the latter (posting of workers in cabotage operations), the Commission proposes that when in a specific country, the remuneration follows the rules of that country after three days. Since enforcing such rules is particularly difficult due to the highly dynamic nature of the endeavour, the Commission proposes to use tachographs as well as other digital systems and solutions (EETS, electronic documents, etc.) in order to ensure application and to simplify and streamline administrative procedures.

In addition to the eight legislative proposals, the Mobility Package also included a Commission Delegated Regulation on the specifications for the provision of EU-wide multimodal travel information services; a Commission Recommendation on the use of the fuel consumption and CO2 emission values measures in accordance with the new WLTP test cycle for the purposes of providing that information to consumers (car labelling); and a Staff Working Document setting out short, medium and long-term strategies for research and innovation on 7 transport topics, including connected and automated driving as well as electrification.

Next steps

The proposals have been sent to the Council and the European Parliament, where intense debates are expected given the significance of the package. Of the proposals, the seven main ones follow the ordinary legislative procedure (one is a proposal for a Council directive), and were already discussed in the Transport Council on 8 June, with an exchange of views scheduled for 19 June in the Parliament’s TRAN Committee.

In addition, the Commission also plans to complement the package with other proposals over the next 12 months, including post-2020 emissions standards for cars and vans, along with similar standards for heavy-duty vehicles.

Additional facts (Communication)

Official title: Communication from the Commission to The European Parliament, The Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: “Europe On The Move” –  an Agenda for a Socially Fair Transition Towards Clean, Competitive and Connected Mobility for All

Publication date: 31 May 2017

Type of procedure: Strategic Consultation