East European Truckers Fear Collapse as EU Tightens Rules

(Bloomberg) -- Poland’s $57 billion transport and logistics industry is facing a serious threat as the European Union agreed to tighten rules on international trucking services, upending its business model based on lower driver costs.

“This may completely eliminate Polish companies from the EU market,” Jan Buczek, the head of the Association of Polish International Road Freight Operators, was cited as saying on the group’s website. “Many companies will go bust, we’ll have leases and credits to pay off but no chance to earn money.”

The EU’s Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council approved new rules this week that, once passed by the bloc’s parliament, will force international road freight companies that move cargo within another EU country, a service known as cabotage, to comply with the minimum wage requirements for drivers in the country where the service is being provided.

East European Truckers Fear Collapse as EU Tightens Rules

The regulations will mainly hit companies from the EU’s poorer east, which have used their cost advantages to dominate the bloc’s road freight industry. The decision also shows the waning influence of Poland, which will become the EU’s fifth most populous nation after the U.K. leaves, following years of clashes with Brussels over its backslide on democratic values.

Championed by France, the changes were criticized as “protective and disproportionate” by Poland and several other countries, which were outvoted in the bloc. The new regulations set time limits for cabotage shipments and require companies to bring their drivers back home at least once every four weeks. They will also impose stricter monitoring of truck drivers crossing the bloc’s internal borders.

Polish transport and logistic services accounted for 11 percent of the country’s $525 billion gross domestic product last year, twice as much as the EU average. Infrastructure Minister Andrzej Adamczyk said in a tweet that the changes will “especially” hit Polish trucking companies and pledged to “keep on fighting” to convince the EU’s parliament to amend the rules, he told newswire PAP in an interview.

“Poland has lost the battle over international road transport,” employers’ organization Lewiatan said in a statement on Tuesday. The new rules will not only weaken Polish trucking companies but also hit the EU economy and its consumers, it said.

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