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Brussels, 28 February 2012

Road transport: the future of the internal market for road haulage

In a public hearing today, the Commission is meeting with stakeholders involved in road haulage activities. This hearing will provide first-hand information for a report to be drafted by the Commission in 2013, which will assess the situation of the EU road haulage market and determine whether conditions are ripe for further market opening.

What are the current rules?

Although restrictions relating to the provision of international road haulage services have gradually been abandoned, limits to the provision of national road transport operations by hauliers registered in another Member State still exist. Such transport operations, known as cabotage, fall under the scope of Regulation 1072/2009. According to these rules, an operator may carry out up to three cabotage operations within seven days after the unloading of an international transport. These rules have been applied since May 2010.

Why is the Commission considering changes to the rules?

The Commission wants to build a Single European Transport Area in which all modes of transport benefit from a single market with harmonised rules and framework conditions and in which restrictions on the activities of non-resident operators are kept to a minimum, if not completely eliminated. Such a step would benefit not only the transport sector but the European economy as a whole, thus contributing to more growth in Europe. One of the 40 actions foreseen in the 2011 White Paper (1) to achieve a Single European Transport Area is a review of the rules on access to the internal market for road transport.

Regulation 1072/2009 also requires the Commission to carry out an assessment by 2013 of the market situation for road haulage. In particular the Commission should analyse whether conditions such as effectiveness of controls, employment conditions in the profession, and enforcement of social rules have progressed to a point where further market opening can be considered. If this is the case, the Commission should accompany this report by a legislative proposal.

What benefits could be achieved by loosening these rules?

In 2010, almost a quarter of all vehicle-km of heavy goods vehicles in the EU involved an empty vehicle. Loosening the rules on the internal market for road haulage and for cabotage would allow hauliers to optimise fleet management and loads. The current rules limit hauliers when carrying out certain national (i.e. not cross-border) transport operations, resulting in a high number of trucks in Europe running partially loaded or even empty. This goes against the objective of a resource-efficient road transport sector, and against the need for an efficient European transport and logistics system, crucial for the competitiveness of the overall European economy. By giving domestic hauliers a competitive advantage on their own markets, it also distorts competition in the internal market.

Whilst the potential benefits are significant, it should be noted that disparities still exist between Member States in the effective enforcement of rules related to employment conditions. Market opening must go hand in hand with proper working conditions.

Next steps?

Vice-President Siim Kallas has called for a high-level group of independent academic experts to deliver their assessment on the situation of the internal market for road haulage by May 2012. The Commission will take this assessment into account in its report to be issued in 2013. If appropriate, this report will be accompanied by a legislative proposal to further open up cabotage.


Cabotage still accounts for only a fraction – 2% (2) – of total road freight transport activities in the EU. However cabotage activities are growing. In 2010, the tonne-km generated by EU hauliers in cabotage operations were 17% higher than in 2009. There is potential for further growth if the regulatory framework were to allow it.

Facts and figures:

  • Road freight transport for hire and reward is an important economic activity in the EU: it provides around 3 million jobs in about 600,000 enterprises.

  • Road transport accounts for close to three quarters (3) of all inland transport activities in the EU. In 2010, it generated 1.76 trillion tonne-kilometres, one third of which in international transport operations.

  • In 2010, almost a quarter (4) of all vehicle-km of heavy goods vehicles in the EU involved an empty vehicle.

  • Cabotage still accounts for only around 2% (5) of all national road freight transport activities for hire and reward in the EU.

  • In 2010, the tonne-km generated by EU hauliers in cabotage operations were 21% higher than in 2008. The lifting in May 2009 of the restrictions on cabotage for vehicles registered in most of the countries that joined the EU in 2004 likely contributed to this rapid growth in cabotage operations.

More information:

MOVE Europa website on the public hearing

MOVE Europa website on road haulage

Regulation (EC) No 1072/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009 on common rules for access to the international road haulage market

Press release announcing the creation of a high-level group on the internal market for road haulage

1 :

COM(2011) 144 final - Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system

2 :

Source: Eurostat

3 :

73% in 2010, source: Eurostat..

4 :

24%, source: Eurostat

5 :

Source: Eurostat

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