Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola will be spending the coming weeks negotiating an exception for Malta and other island states to proposed new EU rules that would force trucks to return home every eight weeks.

Dr Metsola believes the new amendments would add a disproportionate burden on local businesses and substantially increase CO2 emissions.

Malta has already expressed concern over the rules, which form part of the EU’s so-called ‘Mobility Package’, as the government believes they threaten the competitiveness of countries like Malta. 

Cyprus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania are also trying to overturn the new rules.

In December, a preliminary agreement was reached between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council on the Mobility Package.

The proposed new rules would see trucking companies providing a paid rest period of 45 hours every three to four consecutive weeks at “the employer’s establishment or to the drivers’ place of residence”.

Trucks will have to return to the company’s headquarters every eight weeks, in a move designed to prevent haulage companies from trying to register in other EU countries to take advantage of lower taxes.

The proposed rules will be up for a second reading in June and in the meantime, interested MEPs can submit amendments.

The new rules could cost companies between €500,000 and €1 million, a representative of Attrans had told Times of Malta.

“I want to achieve a situation where Malta and other island states facing insularity issues are excluded from a controversial clause in the EU’s mobility package,” Dr Metsola said.

“For Malta, Cyprus and even Ireland to a certain extent, forcing trucks to return to the company’s headquarters every eight weeks would place a hugely disproportionate burden on businesses and a distortion of the internal market that could indirectly favour companies based outside island jurisdictions.”

She also said that the requirement to return heavy vehicles every eight weeks contradicted both the purpose of the Commission’s initial legislative proposals to reduce negative environmental effects and the EU climate goals set out by the Commission in the new European Green Deal.

This requirement will see a notable increase in the number of runs of empty trucks on European roads that will subsequently result in a substantial increase in CO2 emissions, pollution and congestion from the transport sector, not to mention the increase of ferry crossings.

“We are not too late,” Dr Metsola said, adding that the amendments are expected to go to vote in June. She has already spoken to companies, MEPs from across the political divide and Maltese diplomats.

Meanwhile, the Malta Chamber of Commerce has also criticised the proposed new rules. It said returning trucks to base every eight weeks – or six times a year – would result in 30 fewer days of productivity per truck, as they spend five days at sea every time.

“Placing such requirements on haulage companies is incredibly burdensome for those based in countries that are geographically disconnected from the single market and are at the periphery of Europe,” chamber president David Xuereb said.

“This measure would penalise Maltese operators unfairly and with disproportionate costs.

“It is most unfortunate that such a measure was created with ulterior protectionist motives in mind, rather than the environment or the actual benefit of drivers.”

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