On the 23rd of November, the European Parliament held a debate on the new opportunities for small transport businesses, including collaborative business models. The report was subsequently adopted with a large majority on the 24th of November in plenary in Strasbourg.
FEDEMAC was pleased to see that amendments for which it has pushed forward were adopted by the European Parliament, such as “Stresses that changing vehicle emission standards too frequently can prove particularly problematic for smaller transport companies in view of the depreciation periods for fleets of vehicles”. It is clear that for the removal industry, whose fleet spends more time parked and not on the roads, the ever so quickly change in emissions standards can cause much financial burden to especially small and medium sized companies. Furthermore, the European Parliament included into its report a request to the European Commission to present a diagnostic report on the consequent economic, environmental and safety impact of Light Commercial Vehicles (LCVs). Indeed, the use of LCVs by rogue companies can hamper the good functioning of markets and create unfair competition as companies may use them to avoid respecting Driving and Resting time rules as well as declaring financial profits.
Dominique Riquet, the rapporteur of the dossier stated that transport is an essential element of the single market and SMEs in the transport sector represent a crucial activity and an element of mobility in the urban areas. Moreover, SMEs in the transport sector provide growth and jobs.
He explained that at the moment, SMEs are facing many challenges. However the main ones were identified under the following categories:
• complexity of regulations
• economic challenges, such as taxes and difficulties in accessing to credits
• environmental challenges like emissions and dependence on fuels
• new economic and technological challenges
Mr. Riquet elaborated on the issues regarding this latter point in terms of the new phenomenon of the sharing economy that has emerged with urbanisation. He stated that “this is creating many problems to SMEs in terms of quality of services, security, identification, secure transactions, unemployment and lack of income”. He added that the nature of the services of the sharing economy should be qualified as commercial.
Lastly, he explained that there should be convergence between the classic economy and the new/sharing economy. This has to be done through harmonisation of taxes and of fiscal regimes. In his view, there should be an EU framework that defines the status of these activities under the sharing economy.
Violeta Bulc, European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport, welcomed the report of Mr. Riquet, acknowledging that the report offers a well-balanced view of the challenges that the SMEs in the transport sector are facing.
Commissioner Bulc explained that the Commission has noticed that the local and regional markets are closed, due to strict regulations and control by public authorities. This resulted in regressing in terms of innovative solutions for the transport sector.
Therefore, the Commission will be proposing EU legislation that tackles this issue in a proportionate manner by taking into account road safety and workers’ social conditions in order for Member States to comply with EU law. In the 2017 Road Transport package, the Commission announced many proposals that will provide a balance between social standards and the enhancing of the functioning of the internal market. The Commission will focus on better access to professions in the transport sector. These proposals will be presented in the first semester of 2017.
Another aspect that characterises the transport sector is the digitalisation of the economy that has increased mobility and reduced congestion. Mrs Bulc underlined the importance of access to transport data. She added that mobility service, fair competition and functioning of the market should be guaranteed.
Lastly, she stated that “the Commission is in favour of the collaborative economy as long as it is in line with the EU law and national laws. And the Commission encourages Member States to promote new business models and new technological solutions as an opportunity to modernise their regulations”.
During the debate, MEPs suggested establishing a platform in order to inform and support SMEs. Many MEPs called on the Commission to monitor the situation and to exchange best practices.