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April 22, 2010

UK: FTA calls for EU lorry ban standardisation

UK freight transporters are calling for harmonisation of weekend lorry restrictions following the recent unprecedented ash cloud disruption.

UK freight transporters are calling for harmonisation of weekend lorry restrictions following the recent unprecedented ash cloud disruption.

The virtual lockdown of northern European airspace for almost a week has sharply highlighted regulation of road transportation of goods and produce.

Spain has remained open virtually all week as the fallout from the Icelandic ash cloud successively paralysed air freight, but rules surrounding transportation by lorries at weekends, has irked a UK representative body.

“Like passenger carriers, many of our members are using mainland Spain as a hub and then moving goods from there to the UK by road and rail,” said the UK’s Freight Transport Association (FTA) Jo Tanner.

“However, the success of these contingency plans could be severely hampered by the weekend lorry bans that are in place in many parts of Europe. We are calling on those countries to deactivate those bans and help us keep the goods and produce moving.”

Lorry bans currently apply in France from 22:00 Saturday to 22:00 Sunday, in Germany from midnight to 22:00 Sunday, in Italy from 08:00 to 22:00 Sunday and in Switzerland all day midnight to midnight and every night from 22:00 to 05:00.

“It would be easier if there were common restrictions,” FTA head of international service Donald Armour told just-auto, although he conceded the body would be happy with no virtually no restrictions at all as in the UK.

“Our best win-win position is there were no lorry bans across Europe at all, irrespective of where vehicles are running to and from.”

Armour added the “number one call I get across my desk” is from FTA members unsure of various European restrictions and highlighted May in France with its plethora of bank holidays – and therefore bans – as particularly complicated.

And given Spain’s sudden prominence as a European freight hub with the air transport complications, the FTA notes there are “complicated restrictions on certain roads – [it is] easy for operators to get caught out.”

To add to the Europe-wide inconsistency, there are no bans in place in Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Denmark, Ukraine and many other eastern European states.

Although fresh and perishable produce are normally exempt from the bans, frozen produce is not and, despite its longer shelf-life, the FTA notes this could present a logistical challenge for producers and retailers.

“While we should be able to keep fresh produce moving, this is about more than mange tout,” said Tanner. “We need co-operation across Europe to make sure that the impact of this unprecedented situation is minimised as much as possible.”

Drivers must also be in possession of an air cargo waybill to prove a consignment was due to go by air originally if driving during ban times.

Earlier this week, the FTA said even if the unprecedented shutdown of European airspace were to end tomorrow, it would take two weeks to clear the backlog of air cargo destined for Britain.

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