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EU must stand firm as new country measures bring border chaos to goods transport

24 Feb 2021

New measures imposed by Germany, followed by Tyrol (Austria) and the Czech Republic, are beginning to cause chaos to goods transport by road across Europe, in particular on the important trade route from Italy northwards across the Brenner Pass, as well as East-West corridors.

Germany is not exempting truck drivers from new COVID testing requirements. Tyrol and the Czech Republic, in turn, have imposed similar restrictions on drivers transiting their territories towards Germany. Rapid antigen tests are accepted; however, they must be conducted by an authorised laboratory, a difficult requirement for mobile truck drivers working outside their home country.   

 

IRU warned of such a damaging chain reaction in new border controls in a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last month, calling for immediate action to prevent barriers to the free movement of goods, in particular COVID-test requirements for professional truck drivers. EU governments must respect their commitment to keep borders open.

“Truck drivers, and the European citizens and businesses that depend on the goods they move, are once again set to pay a heavy price for misguided COVID restrictions that do not exempt transport workers,” said IRU Secretary General Umberto de Pretto. 

 

These damaging unilateral decisions come despite repeated IRU and industry calls to EU leaders, commitments by the countries themselves on green lanes, and the supply chain chaos seen with blocked borders earlier in the pandemic. Supermarkets, medical facilities and factories across the EU are now at risk, including key German industries that depend on multinational supply chains, such as the automotive sector. 

 

More than 7,000 trucks move goods on the North-South corridor through Tyrol every day, about the same volume of trucks that use the Dover-Calais corridor, site of December’s chaos when France imposed restrictions that did not exempt professional truck drivers. Tens of thousands more trucks use the East-West corridor to Germany via the Czech Republic, a major transport axes for central European logistics.  

 

“Isolated in their cabin, truck drivers are not exposed to the virus, and they comply with strict measures against possible infection put in place by their employers and their customers, including no physical contact at pick-up and delivery locations,” said Umberto de Pretto. “Letting drivers do their job and continue their journey across a border is the safest solution.”

The European Commission replied to IRU’s letter last week stating that their position has not changed since the beginning of the pandemic. They reinforced the importance of keeping green lanes for trucks operational at all times, and that individual measures by countries must remain proportionate and avoid the disruption of logistics and essential transport.

 

“I call on European Commission President von der Leyen and her team to stand up for the free movement of goods,” said Umberto de Pretto. “The EU must stand firm and these individual countries must stand down.” 

 

“Germany, Tyrol and the Czech Republic must reintroduce test exemptions for professional truck drivers immediately; otherwise their actions will damage vital supply chains, the single market and the lives of millions of EU citizens – at a huge cost, and without any material benefit to controlling the virus.” concluded Umberto de Pretto.