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EU road transport calls for quick grasp of decarbonisation opportunities
EU | Brussels

EU road transport calls for quick grasp of decarbonisation opportunities

13 Oct 2023 · Prosperity, Environment

IRU members have debated and adopted two policy positions: weights and dimensions of heavy-duty vehicles and CountEmissions EU.

In the framework of their autumn meetings, IRU’s EU passenger and goods transport members discussed and approved policy updates on two European Commission proposals part of the Greening Transport Package.

Weights and dimensions

IRU members refined their position on weights and dimensions and welcomed the European Commission’s new proposal to amend EU rules while calling for several improvements to bring the proposal closer to the on-the-ground reality of the transport market.

IRU Director of EU Advocacy Raluca Marian said, “Where new vehicles concepts, including zero-emissions technologies, are promoted, the EU should guarantee that they can be both built and marketed.”

“The revision of the weights and dimensions rules will have to be accompanied by a similar revision of the type-approval rules. Incentives must be provided for alternatively fuelled vehicles in an encouraging fashion. I do not see the phasing out of standard truck combinations for cross-border operations by the end of 2034 as a positive incentive,” she added.

Technological developments need to be closely monitored, including their impact on operational mission profiles. Incentives need to be considered in parallel with the targets being set in the EU rules on CO2 standards for heavy-duty vehicles and target 2040 rather than 2035. These targets do not phase out the market uptake and use of standard internal combustion engine vehicles and combinations by 2040.

The proposal also opens the possibility to improve the operational efficiency of road and intermodal transport, including the load factor.

“It is extremely positive that after discussions which have been dragging on since 1995, the European Commission has proposed a framework to allow the cross-border use of European Modular Concept combinations. But it’s regretful that some of our colleagues in other modes of transport do not share this positive approach. Rather than seeing it as an operational threat, I invite them to look at the opportunities offered by the European Modular Concept for combined and intermodal transport operations,” said Raluca Marian.

The proposal also facilitates the testing of innovative vehicle concepts. Over the years, IRU has been involved in the development and testing of innovative vehicle concepts in an EU-funded research framework.

However, most of the testing has been limited to a single Member State. In cases where several Member States were involved, a wide set of permits were required to make it happen. 

CountEmissions EU

IRU members also endorsed their position on the CountEmissions EU proposal, which aims to introduce a harmonised framework on how greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are calculated. 

The decision to base the CountEmissions EU on ISO14083:2023 is an attempt by the European Commission to harmonise GHG emissions reporting for passenger and freight transport services. The ISO standard follows a well-to-wheel approach: a holistic measurement of vehicles’ operational GHG emissions, including emissions related to the production and distribution of the particular energy source used.

The proposal introduces a “binding opt-in” approach, meaning that operators who are already calculating their own GHG emissions will be required to adhere to the new EU framework. This avoids introducing a mandatory requirement, however, other pieces of EU legislation, such as the recently adopted Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and the upcoming European Sustainability Reporting Standards for road transport, should be carefully examined and aligned with the CountEmissions EU.

To calculate GHG emissions, operators are given the choice to use data stemming directly from their operations (primary data) or default values (secondary data).

Operators who decide to use secondary data must obtain the information from two EU databases that the European Commission and the European Environmental Agency will set up and manage. While this adds reliability and a reference point for GHG emissions data, the proposal does not specify by when these databases will need to be set up.

Once operators have calculated their GHG emissions data, it will need to be verified by an authority to ensure that it conforms with the requirements set out in the proposal. While the European Commission plans to adopt specific rules for the verification procedure at a later stage, the scope should already be clarified in the proposal.

“By allowing transport operators to use secondary data in their calculations, the proposal offers a good starting point. Primary data remains difficult to obtain and measure, especially for smaller transport companies. But it remains to be seen how frequently verification procedures will be carried out. We want to strongly avoid any additional administrative burden that would disrupt trade across Europe,” concluded Raluca Marian.

The commercial road transport sector is already investing in solutions to measure and decrease its emissions. Support measures are necessary for the industry to progressively adopt the CountEmissions EU methodology.