Cutting border crossing times for trucks a priority

Geneva, Switzerland: It is imperative that delays at borders are reduced in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, says the International Road Transport Union (IRU).

It has called on the EU to taker collaborative approach to reduce bottlenecks at EU borders that have been causing unnecessary delays and interruptions of supply chains.

The European Commission’s green lane guidelines announced this week set a 15 minute maximum border crossing time for vehicles carrying any type of goods.
 
Raluca Marian, IRU general delegate, said: “We welcome the Commission’s guidelines on green lanes, and the announcement that all freight qualifies to access those green lanes, since all goods being transported by road are essential.

“We regret, however, that a provision on long border waiting times has been included. We know by experience that maximum 15 mins per truck will continue to result in huge delays and the situation will remain unchanged. There shouldn’t be any systematic checks at borders.”

Internationally recognised documents are the best option to maintaining much-needed transport flows. Requesting additional forms and/or health certificates from drivers would only hinder supply chains.

“The IRU welcomes the Commission’s recommendation to Member States that drivers of freight vehicles should not be asked to produce any document other than their driving license. We encourage Member States to follow these guidelines. We also ask all Member States to give drivers access to protection equipment and testing facilities, preferably nearby border crossing points, she said.
 
“It’s encouraging to see governments come together to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. However, much still remains to be done in terms of concrete and coordinated responses,” Marian said.

“For instance, harmonising EU transit rights for non-EU vehicles serving European countries remains a matter of urgency. The support of third country nationals is of vital importance and application of rules should not be made conditional. Adopting any unilateral restrictions without coordination must be avoided at all costs.”  

“IRU also urges all European stakeholders to show flexibility in their approach to tackling Covid-19, particularly in terms of professional driving requirements.

“Professional drivers cannot drive if their driving licenses, training certificates or vehicle checks are not up to date. However, as the relevant certification and test centres are closed, drivers cannot obtain the necessary paperwork.

“The European Commission has a key role to play in promoting Member States tolerance initiatives. It is in the ideal position to provide EU Member States with consistent guidance – and recommend that the validity of professional documents and inspections should be extended during the current Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

The slowdown of the economy has also affected many types of freight transport. For example, vehicle manufacturers have stopped work and the supply of vehicle parts has also dramatically reduced. Container freight has similarly decreased dramatically following the reduction in inter-continental shipments. This has put road transport operators at serious risk. 

Many road freight operations are conducted at low margins by companies without cash reserves. Stopping or massively reducing road freight activities is therefore bringing transport operators to the brink of collapse. Without swift financial support, very few road transporters will remain operational once the restrictive measures have been lifted, she said.

“Without swift financial support, very few road transporters will remain operational once the restrictive measures have been lifted. And once the restrictions are lifted, economies in Europe, and beyond, will need road transport operators to resume scaled operations immediately to support economic recovery.”

“With every day that passes, the need for swift, decisive action becomes more pressing” said Umberto de Pretto, secretary general, IRU.

“European challenges require concerted European measures and coordination worldwide. We call on the European Commission and all EU Member States to continue supporting the road transport sector and to coordinate their actions with the UN and other global stakeholders in these unprecedented and challenging times.”

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