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.
“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
“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
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
“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
“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.