Dutch hauliers appeal to the European Commission over obligation to return semi-trailers

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Dutch haulier association Transport en Logistiek Nederland (TLN) says it objects to the explanation of the European Commission (EC) about the return obligation of the vehicle. The EC is of the opinion that semi-trailers and trailers also fall under this provision. TLN disputes this and is also of the opinion that this measure does not contribute at all to the goals of the new European transport rules.

Dutch hauliers appeal to the European Commission over obligation to return semi-trailers

The obligatory return truck rule, which means that a vehicle must return once every eight weeks to the place of business from which the company is run, was introduced in February as part of the Mobility Package. The EC has recently published a Q&A sheet that states that the regulation also applies to semi-trailers and trailers.

TLN says this is a complete surprise to everyone across Europe, and it became apparent during a hastily organized session with the EC this week.

According to the EC, semi-trailers are part of the vehicle fleet and should therefore fall under the regulation. Moreover, the European authority hopes this rule would help prevent letterbox companies from gaining more space.

In a letter to the commission, TLN explains that the legislation should focus on the objectives of the Mobility Package – regulating cabotage or providing decent wages and working conditions for drivers. However, semitrailers have nothing to do with these aspects.

“Trailers are basically the same as containers and they are not returned every eight weeks,” stresses TLN.

Numerous practical issues also listed

TLN has also issued practical objections.

“How do you keep track of the return of a semitrailer? After all, the trailer does not have a tachograph. As a haulier, how do you know whether a trailer has returned at all if you couple a trailer, for example in ferry transport,” asks the organisation. 

“The measure only exacerbates the existing capacity problems,” adds TLN.

In addition, the measure goes against EU sustainability goals because more trailers need to be deployed to transport the same amount of goods.

TLN further disagrees with the EC’s explanation that tachograph data is an effective and reliable way of demonstrating that the vehicle has returned to the operational centre in the Member State of residence within 8 weeks.

“The tachograph merely provides proof that the vehicle has reached the country of registration. Additional input from the driver into the tachograph would be required, but this is not prescribed anywhere in the rules,” states TLN.

The organisation asks the Commission for an explanation.

What is the legal basis for issuing fines?

Finally, TLN questions the powers of enforcers when they demonstrate along the way that a vehicle has not returned:

“Is there a legal basis to impose a fine on the spot? Or is the only way to deal with this, to notify the authority of the Member State of establishment through the so-called IMI system, check the criteria for establishment and consider whether the permit should be revoked?”

TLN also questions the legal basis for a road authority to check the tachograph data for compliance with the obligation to return.

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