The Malta Independent 3 August 2020, Monday

EU road transport reform puts Malta’s manufacturing industry at risk - Peter Agius

Karl Azzopardi Thursday, 9 July 2020, 13:42 Last update: about 25 days ago

The major reform that has been adapted by the European Parliament will be presenting major challenges to Malta’s manufacturing industry, said former PN MEP candidate Peter Agius, blaming this on the government’s incompetence.

On Thursday, the European Parliament (EP) adopted a major reform of the road transport sector which has raised some concern within the manufacturing industry in Malta throughout this year due to the limitations it presents to island economies.

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The revised rules for posting of drivers, drivers’ driving times and rest periods and better enforcement of cabotage rules (i.e. transport of goods carried out by non-resident hauliers on a temporary basis in a host member state) aim to put an end to distortion of competition in the road transport sector and provide better rest conditions for drivers.

Companies will now have to organise their timetables so that drivers in international freight transport are able to return home at regular intervals; every 3 or 4 weeks depending on the work schedule. The mandatory regular weekly rest cannot be taken in the truck cab. If this rest period is taken away from home, the company must pay for accommodation costs.

Additionally, vehicle tachographs will be used to register border-crossings in order to tackle fraud. To prevent systematic cabotage, there will be a cooling-off period of 4 days before more cabotage operations can be carried out within the same country with the same vehicle.

"This is another case in which Europe will no longer benefit Malta as we were unable to adapt the laws to our needs."

The new rules will also require trucks to return to the company’s operational centre every 8 weeks. Using light commercial vehicles of over 2.5 tonnes will also be subject to EU rules for transport operators, including equipping the vans with a tachograph.

Malta’s manufacturing industry has been very critical of these regulations ever since a political agreement on this reform was reached with the European Council (EC) in December 2019, due to the limitations they imply for island economies.

In fact, last month, Transport Minister Ian Borg had made an appeal for these regulations to be amended in a way that take Malta’s economy into consideration. However, the EP did not follow through with these claims, saying that Malta acted too late and should have tried to coordinated better at earlier stages.

Former PN MEP candidate Peter Agius also heavily criticised the government for not acting fast enough and expressed that, as a result, Malta’s manufacturing sector will be impacted badly as it will be more expensive to export our local products around Europe.

“As I had alerted at the start of the year, the government did not act fast enough. It didn’t manage to change anything. This is a real blow for Malta’s competitiveness as other central member states will not be as impacted,” Agius told this newsroom.

He explained that importation charges which are set to increase which will affect consumer prices since, according to American research, land transport represents 18% of the average price of products.

“Maltese operators are also going to be directly affected by these changes since they will experience added expenses including purchase and maintenance of more trucks to compensate for the obligatory halt in procedures every 8 weeks,” he said, echoing the concerns which Maltese companies had expressed earlier on in the year.

Additionally, operators will have to change their logistical operations seeing that they will only be allowed to stop in a country more than 3 times when they previously could stop 10-15 times in industrial areas, Agius added.

“This is another case in which Europe will no longer benefit Malta as we were unable to adapt the laws to our needs. The government’s incompetence is causing more people to distance themselves from Europe which is creating more restrictions than opportunities,” he stated.

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