National governments have a key role to play in ensuring the continuity of road transport as the lifeblood of society and the supply of essential everyday goods. Here is an overview of the best practices:
All countries in the Americas region have recognised the importance of keeping road transport freight operations running to ensure that necessary everyday goods make it to those who need them.
In North America, the three governments have coordinated border policies to allow commercial vehicles or others with essential needs to cross the border, notably with Mexico from where the US sources most of its fruits and vegetables.
Food and agricultural products coming from South America continue to be processed at maritime ports so that trucks can also continue to transport goods to warehouses and retail outlets.
In addition, the US Department of Transportation issued an emergency declaration, which relieves commercial drivers transporting essential cargo from their regular hours of service.
In China, where the outbreak began, the national authorities acted to keep transport operations moving by introducing a number of measures including:
- Removing all road tolls (including for bridges and tunnels) across the country for all vehicles, until the pandemic ends.
- Putting in place a no-stop, no-check, toll-free policy for vehicles transporting emergency supplies and essential personnel.
- Providing financial support to companies affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises and those tasked with transporting essential goods and daily necessities.
- Extending validity period of commercial vehicle inspection and qualification certificates of relevant personnel to 45 days after the Covid-19 outbreak ends.
- Encouraging insurance companies to extend the insurance period and defer payment of motor insurance premiums, and to lower or exempt premiums for commercial vehicles, ships and aircraft that have suspended operations amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
In Belarus, the customs authority has announced that customs handling of essential goods truck consignments at the border for domestic consumption will be streamlined. It has also introduced “green lanes” at the borders to prioritise customs clearance and transit of essential goods whether arriving into Belarus or meant for transit to other countries. In fact, the Belarusian customs has reported that between January–March 2020, the transit of goods across the Belarusian borders has increased compared to the same period last year, despite the health crisis.
In other countries of the region after an increase of queues earlier this month, action has been taken to streamline the border crossing procedures.
- In Kazakhstan, the Government has changed its requirements for drivers and trucks coming from countries experiencing cases of COVID-19, meaning that those drivers no longer have to change vehicles when arriving at the country’s border crossing points.
- Azerbaijan has also kept open its “transit green corridor” for Iran, connecting it to Russia and the rest of the world.
In Russia, similar efforts have been made to guarantee the smooth flow of goods in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The national competent authorities have decided to:
- Not subject drivers of international road transport to mandatory quarantine for 14 days if they do not have signs of the virus.
- Not introduce annual spring restrictions on regional roads.
- Exempt transport companies from paying transport tax.
- Reduce insurance premiums for small and medium-sized businesses.
The European Commission recognised the essential nature of freight transport and logistics from the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. It prioritised those sectors to keep the economy going and to make sure transport workers can get from their homes to their workplaces all over the EU.
To harmonise unilateral measures introduced by EU Member States, the European Commission introduced recommendations and guidelines. Key suggestions cover the following aspects:
- Reducing transport and mobility to what is essential. Freight transport is considered essential, so is the free movement of transport workers
- Introducing green lanes at internal and external borders to give priority to freight transport
- Establishing a single employer certificate template to guarantee the free movement of professional drivers without their vehicle
- Establishing a framework for temporary extension of the validity of a number of freight, vehicle and personnel related certificates and control documents
- Introducing more flexibility in the driving and rest times for the drivers and creating a framework within which EU Member States can apply for derogations
- Lifting of traffic bans for heavy goods vehicles
- Insisting that sanitary and catering facilities remain available for drivers
Good practices are similarly being adopted by countries in the Middle East region, with Abu Dhabi launching a free on-demand bus service for medical workers in response to COVID-19. The city’s essential healthcare workers now have a safe and reliable way to travel between their home and place of work during the coronavirus public health crisis.
“Faced with the global COVID-19 crisis, some countries around the world have risen to the challenge and have introduced measures to keep road transport and the flow of goods moving,” said IRU Secretary General Umberto de Pretto. “We nonetheless continue to strongly urge them to come together and adopt harmonised best practices, to ensure that road transport workers and their employers are best equipped to face the challenge.”