The winds of change are blowing across the roads of the European Union (EU), and they’re taking truckers by surprise. Recently passed legislation will raise wages, mandate better recordkeeping, and create better working conditions for truckers. Not everyone is happy, though. What’s good for some countries is brewing hardship for others.
Poland and other Eastern European trucking companies in particular are ringing alarm bells over the effect new EU mandates will have on their ability to compete with Western European companies. They argue that what’s beneficial for Western European truckers will devastate their ability to keep up competitive long-haul business.
Understanding the changes
On the surface, the EU’s new trucking legislation looks to be a boon for drivers. The EU council maintains changes to current trucking conditions that will ensure “clearer, fairer, and more enforceable rules for truck drivers.” Some of the new mandate’s more prominent points include:
- Implementation of smart tachographs, to automatically register border crossings and loading/unloading activities
- Enforcing a maximum of three cabotage* operations in seven days, with a “cooling off” period of five days before further cabotage can be carried out
- Return home visits mandated every four weeks, or two reduced weekly rests after three weeks on the road, as well as enforcement of regular weekly rests outside of truck cabins
Most controversial, however, is the introduction of a new provision that would see cabotage drivers benefitting from the minimum wage requirements for the country where the service is being provided.
*Transport companies’ operations outside the origin country.
The problem for Poland and other Eastern countries
The EU’s enthusiasm for trucking reform isn’t shared by Poland and other countries that currently turn a profit by under-cutting the long-haul trucking market. In fact, Poland maintains that the mandate will hurt its ability to serve greater markets. Much of the backlash comes from the proposed minimum wage provision, as well as cabotage reform.
Poland — which currently enjoys a lower national cost of living average than most other major EU countries — will see the overall profitability of its trucking economy dip dramatically as it’s forced to pay higher wages to its drivers. In addition, restrictions on their ability to conduct frequent, long-term cabotage operations to far-west EU countries will stymie the overall geographic reach of Eastern European trucking conglomerates.
Rippling effects across the EU
As new trucking legislation comes down the pike, good and bad ripples are certain to affect the entirety of the EU.
The positives are plain to see: Better wages for truckers and a higher quality of life are the drivers behind new legislation. This will also bring more positive ripples to the trucking economy as a whole, attracting better drivers and forging a more competitive landscape. Unfortunately, these positives have equal and offsetting ramifications.
Trucking companies dealing with higher minimum wage payments as the result of cabotage rules will have to pass these costs on to customers or absorb them, cutting into profit margins. In the case of Poland and other Eastern European countries, barriers in cabotage operations may also result in loss of jobs and possible company closings.
As the new rules come into effect between now and 2020, winners and losers in the shift will begin to shake out. The landscape of the EU trucking industry is about to change — but whether the net change is positive or negative remains to be seen.