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Cabotage transport, i.e. the transport of goods between the destinations in one country by vehicles registered in another country, is growing every year. According to the data from the European Statistics Office Eurostat, between 2013 and 2017 cabotage volumes grew by 43%. In 2017, almost half (46%) of all cabotage operations in the Union were carried out in Germany. Polish drivers, on the other hand, in the same year performed 39.7% of all such transportation in the European Union.

Strict penalties for illegal cabotage

It should be remembered that cabotage is subject to very precise legal regulations and failure to comply with the resulting obligations can result in severe penalties. In the countries of the Old Union where carriers carry out the largest number of cabotage operations, all violations of the regulations governing such transports are punished most severely.

In Germany, for example, under Article 19(2a) in conjunction with Article 19(7) of the German Road Traffic Act (GüKG), fines for carriers may amount to up to €5,000. In principle, the first infringement is subject to a fine of €1,000. The customer is treated much more severely here – under Article 19(7) in conjunction with item 1a(1) of the GüKG, the customer may be fined up to €20,000

In France, cabotage infringements are punishable by fines of up to €15,000. In addition, the vehicle is detained until the carrier has complied with the regulations in force. In the event of flagrant and repeated infringements, the company may also be temporarily banned from cabotage in France. 

In Spain, as in Germany, penalties for illegal cabotage are imposed not only on the carrier but also on the company that ordered the service. It does not matter whether it is a carrier, freight forwarder or shipper. The carrier may be fined €4,001 and the cabotage contracting entity may be fined €2,001.

Two cabotage variants

Cabotage in EU countries is regulated by Regulation (EC) No. 1072/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009. It concerns common rules for access to the international road haulage market. In addition, national regulations clarify the provisions of the EU legal act. 

According to the Regulation, cabotage operations may be carried out by a carrier who is a Community licensed carrier (and, if the driver is a national of a third country, he must hold a driver attestation). Please note that cabotage is only permitted in the course of transport – after complete unloading in the country of destination. In the case of cabotage operations, loading and unloading must take place on the territory of one country.

Cabotage operations according to EU rules are allowed in two variants: 

– cabotage in the country of the first unloading of an international carriage,

– cabotage in other Member States after an international carriage has been unloaded. 

In the first variant, the provisions of Regulation (EC) No 1072/2009 state explicitly that cabotage may be carried out following an international transport from another Member State or a third country to the host Member State. Three cabotages can be performed within 7 days after the last unloading in the country of unloading,” explains Ewa Ziaja-Sławińska, a senior lawyer at TransLawyers. In the second variant, the carrier may carry out cabotage in neighbouring countries (other than the country of cargo delivery in international transport), however, he has only 3 days from the date of unladen entry into the territory of the country.

“In the second variant, after unloading, essentially in one of the Member States, it is possible to enter another Member State without cargo and carry out one cabotage operation there within 3 days of crossing the border,” explains the lawyer.

“Carriers often forget that it is not possible after transport from a Member State to another non-EU country (e.g. Switzerland) and after unloading there, to return without cargo to France, for example, and to carry out cabotage there. This ignorance is used quite eagerly by the French services in issuing fines for illegal cabotage, which, unfortunately, have no grounds for effective appeal,” points out Ewa Ziaja-Sławińska.

Remember about these documents

To avoid severe penalties for non-compliance, remember to keep documents that the driver should always carry with him: 

– CMR for an international carriage prior to a cabotage operation, 

– a waybill for each cabotage transport operation.

In addition to the required data, these documents should indicate the date of unloading and the registration number of the vehicle which carried out the transport.

The documents may also be in electronic form. However, they must be permanently available so that the driver can show them in the event of a check.

Photo: Trans.INFO

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