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MEPs approve contentious road transport reform which fuelled east-west tensions

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Truckers gather to perform a 'drive slow' action to Brussels at a tank station in Waarloos, Belgium on Monday, Sept. 24, 2012.
Truckers gather to perform a 'drive slow' action to Brussels at a tank station in Waarloos, Belgium on Monday, Sept. 24, 2012.   -   Copyright  Virginia Mayo/AP
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The European Parliament has overwhelmingly adopted a major reform of the road transport sector, ending three years of intense debate.

The adoption of the "mobility package" paves the way for improving the working conditions of around three million truck drivers, fighting illegal practices in the industry, such as letterbox companies, and ensuring a level-playing field between more than half a million European transport companies.

"I think everyone will benefit when we have common rules in our single market, because we have seen that if we don’t have common rules then the different member states start to set their own rules, and it means that our market will be very fragmented," said Finnish MEP Henna Virkkunen.

The mobility package has long been the source of tensions within the European Union, splitting the bloc along geographical lines. Some accuse the new rules of undermining the freedom to provide services and restricting access to the transport market for Eastern European companies, which are generally cheaper than their western counterparts.

The MEPs leading this reform reject these claims.

"If you do international transport, establishing your company in Member state A, with lower standards, but working only in member state B, with higher standards, then you should pay the standards to your drivers on the member state B, where is the restriction? Maybe it will rise a little bit the cost but this is OK in the end," said German MEP, Ismail Ertug.

Before the end of summer, drivers will be able to return to their country of origin every four weeks and will have to take their long weekly rests outside their trucks. The rules on equal salaries and access to the market are due to be applied in 2022.