A new long-awaited package of proposals from the European Commission (EC) has potentially huge implications for the freight transport sector and adds more uncertainty for anyone moving goods throughout Europe.

The impact of the Brexit vote and impending exit negotiations have already thrown the UK’s trading position with Europe into confusion, and the General Election result has further exacerbated the situation.

Now the EC’s ‘Mobility Package’, announced at the beginning of June, promises to impose more legislation to govern those who transport goods by road.

The package comprises eight legislative files and accompanying documents covering issues including drivers’ hours rules, tachographs, operator licensing and minimum wage rules for visiting drivers.

The complex proposals have been met with mixed feeling by the Freight Transport Association (FTA), the UK’s biggest transport trade organisation. While some of the measures announced will certainly cut red tape for international freight operators, FTA has identified worrying implications for the van sector where more legislation is planned.

With more than four million vans on UK roads, FTA is concerned that implementing these controls will divert Driver Vehicle and Standards Agency (DVSA) staff away from the vital task of policing dangerous, badly maintained or overloaded vehicles.

James Firth, FTA’ Head of Licencing Policy, said: “We recognise the political pressure the European Commission was facing from some member states to amend regulations covering freight vehicles.  However, our members are concerned that the imposition of new restrictions on van operators is unnecessary; their implementation will hinder business growth and bring no meaningful benefit to road safety. FTA is concerned that this additional work will take the focus of the DVSA away from enforcing existing road safety laws against operators.”

To help its members make sense of the complex proposals, FTA experts have drawn up a comprehensive briefing paper outlining the main elements. The document makes clear why, even though the proposals are unlikely to become law until after March 2019, the UK road freight sector still needs to pay close attention to the detail.

Many of the proposals will affect the practicalities of how goods will move into and out of Europe from the UK. It may also be that, in the process of Brexit negotiations for an effective, frictionless trade deal and continued mutual access to our respective transport markets, the UK Government agrees to implement some or all of the proposals in domestic law as part of maintaining parity with EU standards.

David Wells, FTA Chief Executive, said: “This is a complex set of proposals, and FTA has the breadth and depth of expertise not only to understand what the implications for our members will be, but also to get actively involved in continuing to shape new rules, so that law makers recognise the impacts they may have on industry.  This document will aid members and the industry in understanding the potential impacts.

“We are advising our members to plan that any – or even all – of these proposals could come into force in the UK, once adopted.”

FTA will discuss the proposals with its members before taking the agreed positions to civil servants and ministers in Whitehall, as well as European Commission officials and MEPs in Brussels.

David Wells said: “FTA has had a permanent presence in Brussels for more than two decades to ensure members’ views are being considered at the heart of Europe.

“Europe will always be an important trading block, and therefore critical for the UK’s logistics sector.  With Brexit looming, FTA is expanding its presence and influence in the capital of the European Union – not, as some might have anticipated, rolling it back.”