Photo credits @ UNTR

Romanian hauliers effectively forced to pay for expensive HGV park to enter Bulgaria, claims haulage association

Romanian lorries at a Romania-Bulgaria border crossing are being significantly held up if they don't use a high-priced HGV park before the border, claims the Romanian Road Transporters Association, which says it is seeking justice at national, regional and EU levels.

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The National Union of Romanian Road Transporters (UNTRR) has raised its voice against what it considers to be alarming practices surrounding a truck park in Ruse, on the Bulgarian-Romanian border.

UNTRR claims that the establishment of the private parking facility, operated by an unnamed company, has been shrouded in secrecy, with no official announcements, public information or accessible contact details. The lack of transparency has further fuelled suspicions about the intentions and motives behind the project.

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One of the primary issues at hand is the alleged mandatory requirement for Romanian road hauliers to park exclusively within the confines of the truck park. According to UNTRR, failure to comply with this directive results in trucks being denied entry at the border crossing point in Ruse.

This practice has been criticized as discriminatory, as it applies excessive rates solely to Romanian lorries, while their Bulgarian counterparts enjoy significantly lower fees for utilizing the parking facilities. UNTRR writes that Romanian drivers are burdened with a fee of €25 upon exiting the parking lot, whereas Bulgarian drivers pay a mere 15 Leva (approximately €7), irrespective of the duration of their stay.

UNTRR’s management recently visited the Ruse border crossing to witness firsthand the impact of these alleged discriminatory practices. They discovered that the truck park, initially comprising 700 spaces, is currently expanding by an additional 200 spaces.

While the Bulgarian authorities claim that the utilization of this parking area is voluntary, UNTRR maintains that the border authorities prioritize trucks registered within the parking system, leaving those unregistered to wait indefinitely.

The introduction of vibrating beepers, providing a ten-minute notification before crossing, and the presence of monitoring panels displaying the number of trucks in the queue have not assuaged concerns about the overall fairness and transparency of the system.

Critics argue that these practices run counter to the goals outlined in European Regulation No 1100/2008, which emphasizes the need to enhance the fluidity of transportation within the European Union by eliminating border controls in road transport. Such controls, under the regulation, are expected to be non-discriminatory and primarily focused on weight and dimension checks, rather than impeding the free movement of vehicles, stresses UNTR.

The actions of the Bulgarian authorities have raised eyebrows within the industry and prompted the UNTRR to question their commitment to fostering a collaborative environment to expedite Romania and Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area. UNTRR argues that instead of working towards eliminating existing blockades at the Romanian-Bulgarian borders, the Bulgarian authorities have taken a divergent path by supporting the construction of private truck parks that only serve to hinder international road traffic.

As concerns mount over the potential expansion of such practices, UNTRR warns that the establishment of long waiting times at border crossings could be used to justify the implementation of further parking areas and discriminatory measures. Should these trends continue, UNTRR contends that Romania may need to reassess its partnership with Bulgaria and consider alternative strategies to advance its Schengen aspirations independently.

UNTR has called on the European Commissioner for Transport, the President of Romania, the Prime Minister of Romania, the Minister of Transport and Infrastructure and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to take urgent action to stop the „abusive and discriminatory practices” of the operator of the truck park built in Ruse with the support of the Bulgarian authorities.