French hauliers under threat from cabotage expansion

06/01/2012

The competitiveness of French Hauliers has come under greater threat now that Eastern European Hauliers from Romania and Bulgaria can operate in the French domestic market under legislations set out in the cabotage enlargement in the EU, according to France’s leading haulage federation, the FNTR.

‘Cabotage’ is the transportation of goods or passengers between two points in the same country by a vessel or an aircraft registered in another country. In the past cabotage has not been allowed by foreign companies, although this is changing within Europe for member states of the European Union.

Cabotage has been one of the FNTR’s major concerns for some time. It says France alone accounts for one-third of all cabotage operations in the EU and that more than 40% of trucks on the country’s roads are now foreign-registered.

Since January 1st, when the next stage in the liberalisation of the European road haulage sector came into existence, Romania and Bulgaria have joined Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania who have had the right to carry out up to three domestic transport operations in fellow member states over a seven-day period, following an international operation since May 2009.

The objections originate from a 2009 EU regulation on road haulage aimed at boosting competition and productivity. Advocates in the European Commission and Parliament said a liberalised cabotage market would help bring down haulage costs but also cut traffic and pollution by reducing the number of transcontinental truckers returning home with empty loads.

Under the EU rules, road hauliers can make three stops within seven days when crossing borders. For instance, a Romanian trucker delivering domestically produced goods to France could load up on cargo twice on the trip home – delivering products to another French customer and then picking up Romanian-bound cargo.

A spokesman for the FNTR said, “The arrival of Bulgarian and Romanian hauliers will generate new tensions on the French domestic market, as a result of very different labour and fiscal costs.”

“Not only are we are at a considerable competitive disadvantage with counterparts in eastern and central Europe, but also with haulage firms in Germany, Belgium and Spain, who, for the moment at least, are the most active in the cabotage market in France.”

However, The European Shippers Council backs the liberalisation of haulage and sees the extension of cabotage rights as good for commerce and the environment by maximising use of trucks on the road.

Joost van Doesburg, policy manager for the Brussels-based European Shippers Council, said, “In Western Europe we see a lot of Polish trucks on the roads and a lot of Polish truck drivers, but we also see that the amount of cargo leaving Poland for the western markets has increased significantly,”

“Also the amount of cargo going back has increased.”

The EU cabotage policies are credited with a steady decline in the number of transport rigs that return home empty. Last year, international lorries were empty 13.6% of their travel time, down from 15.3% two years earlier, the EU statistical agency Eurostat reported.