Round-up from Europe regarding road transport movements and logistics: COVID-19

1904
transport movements Covid 19 update
White truck on the rural road in evening

Border Control issues remain across Eastern Block Countries

Unrest among French truck drivers reaching critical stage

Austria

Motorways and truck parking update by ASFINAG: 138 parking places including toilets are still open. Only some smaller ones are closed.

General: People coming back home to Austria from any foreign country starting with March 20th have to stay in self quarantine for 14 days. Supermarkets, gas stations, pharmacies are the only stores still open. We are not in complete lock down mode. But everybody is strongly recommended to stay home. Going to the office and to the stores mentioned above is still allowed. Public places are opened again. Going for a walk within your closest family allowed. All other groups in public could be fined with €3.600. 650 fines for that were given on March 19th alone.

Belgium

Minister Bellot has made an exception for driving and rest times when it comes to the supply of food, medicines and other essential resources (supplying supermarkets and pharmacies). Drivers must state the reason for the deviation from the normal limits on the printouts or on the back of the tachograph disc. This is the usual procedure in an emergency.

Belgium has effectively been locked down, although the brand new Belgian government refuses to use the word, the same time stating “that it is in fact a lockdown”. The measures on flexible driving times are prolonged until 31st of march. Weekly working hours go from 56 to 60, two weekly from 90  to 96 hours. It is allowed to postpone the weekly rest period.

Technical inspections station have closed down, so it is no longer possible to take vehicles to their 6 month technical overview. Parking “Goordijk” in the harbour of Antwerp has been closed down.

Bulgaria

From 20.03.2020 these are the changes in driving times in Bulgaria:

– Art. 6(1): replacement of the maximum daily driving limit of 9 hours with one of 11 hours;

– Art. 7: replacement of the minimum daily breaks requirements by imposing a break of 45 minutes after 5 and a half hours;

– Art. 8(6): reduction of the regular weekly rest period from 45 hours to 24 hours.

All the borders are open for freight transport but there are long queues of trucks – especially on Bulgarian- Romanian border – Vidin.

All Bulgarian truck drivers coming from Spain, Italy, UK, France, Germany, Netherland and Switzerland should stay under quarantine after unloading until they leave the country again. For those who will stay in Bulgaria, a 14-day quarantine is applied. For foreign truck drivers they are allowed to enter and unload/load but they have to leave the country after 24 hours. This is valid since 18 March according to commandment of the Ministry of healthcare.

For the time being the situation with the border with Greece is normal but from the Greek side there is already a queue of trucks. All transit trucks coming from so called risk countries – Italy, Span, Iran, South Korea and China, are escorted by the police. All other transits should be normal. At least this is the official information from the Ministry of Interior.

The border Between Serbia and Bulgaria is closed for people, vans and buses, it is open only for transport of goods and for people with diplomatic passports. The situation is the same on the border with North Macedonia – only trucks are allowed to pass. The truck traffic on the borders with Greece and Turkey is very intensive. On the Turkish border Turkish authorities have mounted thermo cameras for measuring the temperature of the incoming passengers. This is slowing down the passing towards Turkey. International fast train between Bulgaria and Turkey was cancelled. On the border with Romania – on the Vidin bridge over Danube river – there are waiting trucks in both directions and some smaller border points with Romania are closed. From tomorrow all the flights to Italy and Spain were cancelled .

After the first panic – as far as I see there is no shortage of foods, the supermarket chains organized limited entrance in the shops in order not to have many people inside and there are small queues in front of the shops but the people are staying calm 1-1,5 m from each other. Even yesterday in Lidl the toilet paper was on promotion!

Czech Republic

The traffic situation of trucks on the northern border to Poland is better than yesterday. The queues remain in Slovakia, but the police and politicians are trying to solve them. The Road and Motorway Directorate is distributing water to stranded truck drivers and deploys sanitary facilities such as toilets. On the D1, D2, D8 and D11 motorways, the Police of the Czech Republic manages the operation of trucks. Trucks will be parked inland and released to the border in groups. Block handling of 10 or 30 or 100 trucks is created. On the motorways D1, D2, D8 and D11 will be very soon restricted overtaking trucks, so-called green lanes will be set up. Czech automobile plants stop production for at least 14 days. The Czech economy will stop in about two to three weeks.

The ban on going public without covered mouth and nose became applicable. Everyone must wear a veil or at least a scarf. The Czech Republic expects to import masks and other hygiene items using the Russian aircraft bridge from China.

On the North border with Poland had been open another three border crossing for goods transportation, some of them have weight restrictions.

Germany

The German ministry of transport has decided to allow free cabotage until the end of September or at least to stop punishing it. Until 17.4.2020, drivers may extend their driving hours to ten hours a day, five times a week. They may also have a reduced rest-period on two consecutive weekends. These changes apply to trucks transporting goods like food (humans and animals), medical goods, fuels.

Also the ministry has lifted the need to fully comply to 2003/59/EC as far as further professional training is concerned. Drivers cannot be forced to be in trainings with lots of other people and thus risk infection. So the ministry implies that all drivers, who are now fit to drive will also be able to fulfil their duty for the current period if they did not refresh all their driving-knowledge.

Generally commercial transportation should go on fluently. Like always, it’s a bit complicated in Germany, because every federal state does it slightly different:

–          Bavaria/Austria: Trucks from EU may pass, passenger cars checked, Vans differing from commercial or private

–          Rheinland-Pfalz/Saarland to France: Every Truck is stopped, lot of traffic jams as consequence

–          Baden-Württemberg to France: Also border controls

–          Swizzerland: As tricky as before, done by customs

Experts say it is by far too late to close borders – and a big risk for control personal.

Greece

Country is in a state of emergency. Road transport currently not restricted and ferries to Italy still operational for trucks and drivers. Driving and rest hours have not been changed. All borders remain open for trucks with long waiting hours though. A full scale ban on passenger cars traffic appears to be imminent.

Finland

According to government decision Finland closed its borders for passenger traffic on Thursday 19.3. It is possible to cross the border in necessary work and business purposes. Finnish citizens and people living permanently in Finland may always return to Finland. Foreign tourists in Finland can leave the country.

Finland’s borders are open for transport of goods. The aim is to keep freight traffic as normal as possible, but sharply declining passenger traffic limits freight transport opportunities on passenger ferries and air transport. Moving within Finland’s borders is not forbidden, but the government’s policy is that people should try to minimize everything but the necessary movement. There are no exceptions to the driving and resting time regulations in Finland yet. Transport organizations proposed reductions in maximum driving time, daily and weekly rest periods and break regulations.

France

Here in France nothing changed. The Army starts to prepare extra hospitals because the government expects many more cases every day (100 dead yesterday).

For Trucks, all types are still ok on the road but now the situation is different because non-essential businesses stop one by one and of course no more pallet to load in the trucks. Many transport companies start to reduce and also stop all traffic. The only business who work like never is food transports.

Concerning hours on the road, no specific change but soon they will have to because it starts to be hard to respect the rules (long wait to load and unload).

One important point truckers are treated poorly. Truck Stop closed, no showers, no toilet, no food. Pressure start to increase from the drivers and soon we will have a revolution. On TV they talk about medical corporations but nothing about life conditions for truck drivers. Even in the factories where trucks have to load, they forbid use of coffee machines. They have to give papers and they must stay outside.

On the highways you pay like usual (very expensive in France) but services are closed, only buy fuel.

Netherlands

Driving and resting times are temporarily relaxed. Daily driving limit goes up from 9 to 11 hours. Weekly limit up from 56 to 60 hours. Fortnightly limit from 90 to 96 hours. Weekly rest (45 hours) only has to be taken after seven days, instead of six days. Derogation is set with retroactive effect from March 14th to April 6th 2020. On Friday all municipalities will be asked to flex their curfew times to enhance food distribution possibilities, even making night distribution a possibility.

Romania/Hungary

The main difficulties are linked around Hungary because Hungary blocks the transit of the Romanian trucks to Romania.

Lots of trucks were forming more than 30 km queue in Nickelsdorf, at the border entrance from Austria to Hungary.

The Romanian authorities asked to make quicker control or opening other border points to make the queues shorter. The Hungarian Minister of Transports said there are 2 other points opened between Austria and Sopron, the information was sent to drivers, the trucks went to the other 2 points where the customs officers did not allow them to cross. The Ministry of Transport in Romania explained the situation to the homologue in Hungary, who even had a press conference in this respect and stated on TV the two borders are opened for trucks in transit, but the Hungarian customs officers say this is “fake news”.

At all borders there are long queues and Hungary forbid the drivers coming from Italy to get into the country.

Many big problems for Romanian transport and surrounding countries. Borders are almost all closed, normally they should be open for trucks, but also in these cases, there are problems. For instance, Hungary has closed the borders from Slovenia for all the trucks in transit. The drivers should provide a medical certificate to prove they are not infected with Coronavirus. The certificate should not be older than 4 days.

The problem is no driver has such a certificate, because in Romania they cannot just go into a medical lab and ask to be tested for Coronavirus. They need to have symptoms and only then are tested.

Hungary states that starting from last night foreign trucks can cross the îSlovenian-Hungarian border only between 21:00 and 00:00 only 15 trucks at every 10 minutes, so not more than 200 trucks per day!

Transport companies should provide, before a request to cross the border, data like the name of the driver, number plate of the truck and hour and minute when they intend to cross a certain border.

For Romania this is really problematic, because the price of being European Union member came with the disappearing of the local industry. Romania imports almost 80% of the food, so all the fruit and vegetables coming from Spain and Italy are limited to reach Romania because the trucks are asked to wait for days at the Hungarian borders. And not only Austria, Slovenia and even Croatia and Serbia make the transit really difficult. Trucks with medical supply are stopped in Germany, even if imported from The Netherlands, but Germany forbids the export of medical equipment and medicines so they stopped the trucks to Romania even if the goods come from The Netherlands.

The countries at the periphery of Europe are almost isolated, so it is really in a serious situation in Romania that will face soon a food crisis. Transport companies are fighting for each kilometre, for each driver, especially that very few drivers are willing to go to Italy at the moment. And when they go, they stay in long queues at the borders when coming back home.

On Thursday night Slovenia blocked all trucks at the border with Italy, some of the trucks went back and cross the border with Austria and then they were blocked again between Austria and Hungary. There are measured by night which make the supply of Eastern Europe in danger and European Commission should make a pan-European corridor for the trucks, at least for those carrying food. Otherwise it looks there is no more European Union.

Switzerland

Today the government will announce new emergency programs for the economy. Further rules for the  general public are expected, though a curfew is not (yet?) expected. Swiss Air is thinking about plans to us its passenger planes for cargo only to keep the flow of goods going. There is still no change for driving times in Switzerland. Delivery driver have experienced lockouts at customer’s premises. They sent out someone to unload the truck on the streets.