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Austria makes essential freight traffic captive to skiers
EU | Brussels

Austria makes essential freight traffic captive to skiers

23 Feb 2024 · Prosperity

Austria has extended a weekend driving ban during the ski season on one of the EU’s busiest commercial routes, exclusively targeting freight transit operations. This further challenges the principle of the free movement of goods in the EU, just to clear the way for ski lovers. The European Commission must ensure that Austria respects fundamental EU principles.

In recent years, the EU road goods transport and logistics industry has repeatedly pointed out the difficult transit situation in Tyrol, calling on the European Commission to act against Austria's transit restrictions on the Brenner corridor for violating EU law.

On 25 January 2024, the Austrian federal government issued a truck driving ban for transit on the A10 Tauern motorway, starting on Friday at 13:00 and covering the weekend. This brought forward, by 24 hours, the previous weekend ban from midday Saturday.  

The official reason for the additional driving ban is the high volume of traffic due to skiers travelling to ski areas on these days.

In a letter to EU commissioners Thierry Breton and Adina Vălean , IRU and national road transport associations from across Europe have called on the European Commission to act against Austria in order to force compliance with EU rules and fundamental principles.

IRU Director of EU Advocacy Raluca Marian said, “The EU road transport industry is extremely concerned about this additional driving ban on one of the EU’s busiest commercial routes.

“This time we can only describe the reason as ‘frivolous’. Austria is penalising EU logistics chains and drivers that need to transit its territory in favour of weekend ski trips. 

“Not only does the ban discriminate because local traffic is exempted, but it also shows a complete disregard for drivers by closing their access to an essential EU corridor right when they need to return home to their families for the weekend. 

“This goes completely against the spirit of EU single market principles and Mobility Package 1 rules which aim to improve driver working conditions. The ski season is not the only period with a lot of tourism. What’s next? Extended bans blocking drivers and goods over the summer to accommodate mountain hikers?

“We are seeing a steady unhindered expansion of transit driving bans in Austria. This sets an unfortunate precedent for other Member States to do the same, based on narrow national reasons, if they know the European Commission does nothing to keep goods moving freely as required by EU treaties.” 

Short notice

It is also noteworthy that the regulation was published in the Federal Law Gazette on 25 January 2024 and came into force the following day. 

Publishing truck driving bans at short notice – without any reason for urgency – has become common practice in Austria. This severely impedes drivers and companies’ ability to adjust routes and operations accordingly, let alone to look for last minute alternative options in combined transport.

An official European Commission letter confirms that Austria regularly violates the so-called “Strawberry Regulation” on the free movement of goods, as it does not comply with its information obligations regarding driving bans that are introduced at short notice. Nevertheless, Austria continues to announce driving bans at short notice. 

“It is high time for the European Commission to take responsibility and act against Austria to stop its free ride in imposing traffic bans on trucks without solid justification. They must ensure Austria’s compliance with EU rules and with the principles of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,” concluded Raluca Marian.

23 Feb 2024
Goods transport, Trade facilitation and transit