While road transport within the EU is harmonised and thus based on common EU rules, road transport between EU and non-EU countries (third countries) is still largely based on bilateral agreements between individual Member States and third countries. However, with certain countries, the EU has concluded agreements which take precedence over bilateral agreements.
In road transport, there are three agreements of note:
- the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA Agreement) as regards transport with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein
- the Agreement between the EU and Switzerland on land transport, and
- the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the EU and the United Kingdom, which also has a chapter on road transport.
These agreements provide for the application of the road acquis in the respective countries, with certain modifications in the case of the UK.
In 2022 in addition, temporary road freight agreements have been concluded with Ukraine and Moldova, as a consequence of the Russian aggression against Ukraine.
The land transport agreement with Switzerland
The EC/Switzerland land transport agreement covers goods and passenger transport by road and by rail. It entered into force on 1 July 2002 and aims to fully liberalise access to the contracting parties’ transport markets. Regarding road transport, EC hauliers and Swiss hauliers are already free to carry out transport operations between a Member State and Switzerland and vice versa. Almost half of all goods transport by road between the EU and third countries is with Switzerland. Under the terms of the Agreement, Switzerland also abolished its weight restrictions for heavy goods vehicles: since January 2005, the maximum permissible weight in Switzerland is 40 tonnes (the same as in the EU). Also, the Agreement provided for the introduction of the Swiss distance-based heavy vehicles road charge. Regarding rail, Switzerland has taken on the obligation of liberalising its rail transport market by enacting the EU’s rail liberalisation packages.
Alpine Traffic Observatory
This Observatory was set up jointly with Switzerland to collect data and prepare reports on goods transport by road and by rail across the Alps.
The Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and the UK (TCA)
The TCA contains a chapter on road transport and an Annex 31 on Transport of Goods by Road. These provisions contain a number of specificities in comparison with the EU acquis. A Specialised Committee on Road Transport has been established for the implementation of these regulations.
Temporary road freight agreements with Ukraine and Moldova
As a consequence of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the EU has concluded road freight agreements with Ukraine and Moldova to support the economies of these two countries. These agreements give bilateral transport rights to Ukrainian/Moldovan and EU hauliers for each other’s territories. In the case of Ukraine, the agreement has the objective to support the EU-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes, which were set up as alternatives to the Black Sea shipping routes when Ukraine’s ports were blocked by Russia. The agreement with Moldova, with an initial validity until 31 March 2023, has been extended to 30 June 2024. The Commission has asked an extension also for the agreement with Ukraine, which has an initial duration until 30 June 2023. Both agreements are managed by Joint Committees with representatives of the EU and the respective countries.
The EEA Agreement
The Agreement on the European Economic Area basically extends the EU internal market to Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. As regards road transport, this entails that these three countries apply the EU road transport rules just like EU Member States. Annex XIII of the EEA Agreement contains the EU transport acquis and is regularly updated by decisions of the EEA Joint Committee.
As regards passenger transport, the multilateral INTERBUS Agreement covers occasional services between the EU, Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Turkey Ukraine and the United Kingdom. Following Council mandates, the Commission has negotiated a Protocol to extend the scope of the Agreement to cover also regular and special regular services and another Protocol giving the Kingdom of Morocco the option to join the INTERBUS Agreement. The negotiations were successful and the next step is for the Contracting Parties to the Agreement to sign and accede to the Protocols for them to enter into force.
The Agreement provides for a harmonised regulatory framework to facilitate passenger services between these countries.
The AETR agreement concerns the work of crews of vehicles engaged in international road transport. The agreement covers 49 contracting parties including all EU Member States. Its provisions are aligned with current EU legislation on driving times, breaks and rest periods. In 2006, the AETR agreement was amended in order to introduce the use of the digital tachograph, which became mandatory for contracting parties in 2010.
See also the UN-EC website