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The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has branded French plans to impose a €40 fee on foreigners working in the country on a temporary basis, “protectionist”.
Due to come into force on 1 January 2018, the fee will be levied on workers providing services in France by companies headquartered outside the country.
Head of European policy at the FTA Pauline Bastidon said the new charge amounted to a restrictive tax on international transport carried out by foreign operators.
“The fee of €40 per driver is excessive and, simply put, is a protectionist measure designed to close the French transport market to any operator established outside of France,” said Ms Bastidon.
“It will disproportionately increase the cost of operating in France, and could have negative consequences for international transport to and from the country.”
Ms Bastidon told The Loadstar she was unsure whether the fee would be a one-off or on a rolling basis, but said it compounded already burdensome requirements for operating in France.
“Last July, the French government implemented regulations requiring all foreign drivers be paid the French minimum wage while operating on French soil,” said Ms Bastidon.
“In addition, companies are required to provide paperwork proving this and keep a representative in the country at all times.”
Ms Bastidon said this however had, perhaps unwittingly, led to the emergence of a market for representatives.
“Unless companies have an office in France, they will need to tack the cost of representation – as well as the fee – onto the cost of doing business in the country,” she said.
According to the legislation – introduced by the former government led by Francois Hollande – the €40 will be used to cover the maintenance fee for a database of compliant drivers.
“We are holding out some hope that the new French government will reverse this policy,” said Ms Bastidon.
Rail Freight Group chairman Tony Berkeley believed the fee would cause “absolute chaos” in the logistics sector, and was probably illegal under EU rules.
“The European Commission should come down on this like a ton of bricks,” he added.
France’s decision to impose domestic minimum wages on foreign workers followed similar regulations in Germany and Austria, and Italy has similar plans.
The EC reprimanded all four countries, and a legal case was opened against the French proposals last June (https://theloadstar.co.uk/ec-tighten-labour-rules-truck-drivers-may/).
“While the commission appears empathetic and has protested these regulations, it seems to be moving quite slowly,” said Ms Bastidon. “We are asking it to step up the pace.”
Following EC’s objections, Italy has put its plans on hold until specific rules regarding road transport are published as part of the commission’s Mobility Package on 31 May.
Ms Bastidon said this would not be the end of it though, with EU members and the council first having to assess it, likely leading to amendments, before taking effect.