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   Vol. 19 No. 34
Wednesday April 22, 2020
Virus Trucking Needs Coordination
Umberto de Pretto
Truckers Need Help

It has been a month since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic.
     “Unilateral measures have been put in place by governments. The International Road Transport Union (IRU) global appeal is for immediate and concerted actions by governments and global organizations to stabilize mobility networks and ensure the continued flow of goods,” IRU Secretary General Umberto de Pretto said emphatically.

70 Years of Service

     IRU was founded 70 years ago in Geneva to help war-torn Europe rebuild devastated trade and commercial links.
     IRU began with an alliance of national passenger and freight road transport associations from eight European countries.
     Today IRU drives the road transport industry for its members on every continent in over 100 countries with 3.5 million companies operating in mobility and logistics, as well as regulators, thought leaders, and disruptors.

The IRU War Room Plan

     To help the road transport industry continue delivering the essentials, we suggest these are the actions that require immediate global coordination.

Harmonize Standards

     “There is a patchwork of individual national approaches to border operations.
     “The situation has somewhat stabilized in Europe at temporary borders inside the EU. The Balkans have extended their green lanes to all goods as well, which means better alignment with the EU. But the green lanes are only partially implemented at EU and non EU borders. And every morning in our task force meeting, we still see reports of hour long queues.
     “Turkey in particular has adopted discriminatory quarantine restrictions, China has been blocking incoming transport and the Middle Eastern borders face 24 hour crossing times.
      “We keep working closely with our members in each country on lobbying governments to ease restrictions and improve the flow of goods.
     “Countries need to keep their borders open, harmonize inspection and health procedures based on international standards, and put a stop to systematic controls that lead to goods being stuck in long queues,” Umbert de Pretto insists.

Focus Aid on SME’s

     “While we have secured small successes that have eased the flow of goods across the globe, much remains to be done in terms of support to financially struggling SMEs and to the drivers who courageously go to work every day. Some of the solutions are more complex and involve multilateral mechanisms to be put in place,” Mr. de Pretto declared.
     “Small- and medium-sized enterprises—often family run—are the backbone of road transport across the globe, moving goods and people and representing up to 90 percent of the industry,” Mr. de Pretto declared. These SMEs must receive financial aid in the first place, to avoid imminent bankruptcies and lasting economic impacts on supply and mobility chains.”

Handwriting on the Wall

     “With passenger transport companies reporting 80% business decline on average, globally, much is at stake.
     “China, India, and several U.S. states, have reduced or eliminated tolls on roads for motor carriers. This is the right thing to do, since all trucks on the road are resupplying depleted stocks. We would like to see more of this across the board.
     “Emergency financial aid programmes announced for impacted businesses to prevent bankruptcies have been announced by many countries, including the U.S., UK, Australia, Canada, Japan, China. China has also put SMEs tasked with transporting essential goods and daily necessities as the top priority for financial aid.
     “In the EU, the Commission has issued state aid guidelines and Member States agreed on another 540 billion euro support fund to support the fight against COVID-19. Although mobility and logistics operators are not explicitly included in the emergency programmes, they should have priority access to funds as many of them, especially mobility operators, are on the verge of bankruptcy. Without our road transport companies, any economic recovery will be merely theoretical.
     “In the U.S., the first signs of recognizing road transport as essential come with the nomination of the American Trucking Associations (ATA)’s CEO Chris Spear to the White House Economic Revival Group. This is a great example, which we would like to see other governments follow."

On the Road Talk

     “We have been talking to drivers who are still on the road. Many of them say they are lucky because their employers increased health and safety standards, and provide them with protective equipment.
     “What is disheartening it to still hear so many of them say that access to a clean shower, toilet and to food, is still a problem. Because of a lack of regulation, gas stations, rest area restaurants and loading/unloading areas, have implemented arbitrary measures on safe distancing, opening and closing times and restricted access to their sanitary facilities.
     “This is contradictory to the viral statements about drivers being heroes. They truly, indisputably, are, and in exchange for being able to put food on our plates every day thanks to them, governments should put in place concrete measures to ensure they have access to the basics," Mr. de Pretto exclaimed.


Seeing Certain Progress

     “We are starting to see some effective measures at a regional and national level.
     “Together with the International Transport Forum (ITF), we have succeeded in obtaining extensions to the validity of the ECMT Certificate of Roadworthiness Test and the extension of validity of permits that have expired en route due to different administrative procedures in force, until the vehicles are able to complete the journey."


Time for Greatness

     “To defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and save our industry there needs to be strong and unequivocal leadership at a global level, by national governments, regional institutions, and international organizations, to drive a coordinated global response and international standards.
     “Governments must look beyond their individual interests and take a holistic approach under coordinated action from our global institutions,” added Mr. de Pretto.
     “This is a global crisis requiring global solutions,” he concluded.

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