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Legal regulations concerning road transport carried out with light commercial vehicles (LCV) up to 3.5 tonnes give rise to many discussions throughout Europe. The German Free Democratic Party (FDP) wants vans with a sleeper to be subject to the same rules as heavier commercial vehicles. France has similar plans. The European Commission is also working on tightening regulations for transport below 3.5 tonnes.

The FDP faction submitted a written inquiry (document 19/4333) to the government, regarding transport by cargo vans with sleeper, called Polensprinter in Germany („Polish suppliers”). Party members want to include these vehicles in the regulations that currently apply to heavier commercial vehicles – informs eurotransport.de.

FDP’s arguments

Because of their weight, these vehicles are not subject to regulations that apply to trucks. They carry out transports on German motorways without a tachograph, often with an inadequately secured load and at the lowest social standards. The resulting price pressure affects the logistics industry,” emphasize FDP members in a letter to the government.

They critically refer not only to the issue of unfair competition but also to the aspect of road safety. Because drivers are circumventing the rules governing work and rest time, they often get tired. With this in mind, the FDP demands „to correct existing legal norms as soon as possible”.

Toll for vans?

According to various estimates of industry associations and experts, around 100,000 vans with sleepers drive around Germany. Most of them are registered in Poland. Christian Jung, member of the Bundestag and the FDP rapporteur on freight and logistics emphasizes that there is no systematic monitoring of this group of vehicles carried out by BAG (Federal Transport Office) officials.

Therefore, it is worth considering whether frequently overloaded vehicles should not be equipped with the control devices required in the European Community and be subject to road charges, just like normal trucks,” adds Jung.

Forwarders and drivers of these vehicles would then have to comply with the rules governing working and rest time.

Thanks to this, 36-hour routes across Europe would no longer be possible, and cars that are called ‚ticking clock bombs’ in police circles would no longer be a threat,” comments Jung.

In addition, according to the FPD rapporteur, the majority of foreign drivers do not receive the minimum wage in Germany.

Van controls in France

The French also began to tackle the issue of light transport. The French labor inspectorate has recently started intensive road inspections to check if the drivers comply with the French regulation on working hours and an individual inspection book for road transport of goods from 20 July 1998.

According to the new guidelines, also drivers of vehicles up to 3.5 t. with „foreign license plates” are required to register their time of work and rest when traveling in France, i.e. from the moment you enter its territory until you leave. Records of working time and rest periods of the driver should be recorded in a document specifically created for this purpose. It is an Individual Control Book (Livret individuel de contrôle) or another document that would include this data.

However, as stressed in a report from April 2018, Damien Pichereau, a French MP for the preparation of legislative proposals for transporting vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes on French territory, drivers from abroad may have another document confirming the working time.

The penalty for the lack of an Individual Control Book or other document confirming the driver’s working time up to 3.5 t in France amounts to 135 euro (fixed rate class 4 offense). However, it can be reduced to 90 euros, and the maximum amount is 750 euros.

New laws in France

In April this year, Damien Pichereau submitted proposals for specific changes in the law, which would increase the obligations of carriers who carry out transport with vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes to the French Minister of Transport. New provisions would also be found in the Mobility Package.

Pichereau points out that vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes should be included in the social regulations. Specifically, the regulations on driving time and rest period, as well as access to the profession (professional skills, good reputation, financial potential, headquarters), should apply to light transport.

What is Brussels preparing for light commercial vehicles?

Entrepreneurs who transport goods with vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes can expect more stringent regulations not only in Germany and France but also throughout Europe. The European Commission has decided to take steps to harmonize regulations for transport above and below 3.5 tonnes. Brussels plans to extend Regulation (EC) 1071/2009 laying down common rules on the access to the occupation of road transport operator also for entrepreneurs providing services with vehicles with maximum permissible weight from 3 to 3,5 tonnes.

Transport licenses up to 3.5 tonnes?

The European Commission is currently working on legislation that will also include LCV transport licenses.

Regulations for LCV’s operators prepared by EU officials provide, among others:

– an obligation to have a real and permanent headquarters where basic business documents are stored (commercial contracts, accounting documents, personnel management documents, employment contracts, documents containing data on driving time and rest),

– having an adequate financial capacity shown on the basis of annual financial statements approved by a statutory auditor or another certificate.

Although the European Commission does not directly introduce the requirement to use tachographs in vans, the proposals of the new regulations are clearly aimed at tightening the control of working time in light transport.

Photo: Bartosz Wawryszuk

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