TT Talk - Europe tightening the screw?
Implementation of Directive (EU) 2015/719 on 7 May 2017 emphasises the need for correct weight information in the freight supply chain and potentially clarifies apportionment of liability.
In the interests of road safety, many jurisdictions set out certain rules in respect of weights and dimensions with which heavy goods vehicles must comply. While there are general safety issues involved, these rules also serve to avoid attritional damage to roads and infrastructure, such as bridges and tunnels.
Within the European Union, Directive 96/53/EC sets maximum dimensions and weights for international traffic, thus also providing the mechanism to prevent certain Member states restricting the circulation of vehicles which comply with the rules from performing international journeys within their respective territories. The Directive also serves to balance competition where, for instance, a haulage operator only performs transport operations domestically, with the intention that haulage operators from other Member states that may be performing a local transport movement benefit from a level playing field.
The Directive 96/53/EC performs an important role in the road haulage industry, improving the functionality of the market in Europe and in doing so ensuring the free movement of goods through the region. However, improvements in technology and the need to ensure compliance with national and international gross vehicle mass have prompted amendment, in the form of Directive 2015/719.
Following close on the heels of the SOLAS amendments in relation to verified gross mass of packed containers (VGM), which came into force 1 July 2016, Directive (EU) 2015/719 enters force on 7 May 2017. Within this Directive, amendments are introduced concerning the transport of containers and swap bodies, including the provision of a statement of weight. For ease of reference, the amended Article 10f wording is set out below.
1. For the transport of containers and swap bodies, Member States shall lay down rules that require:
(a) The shipper to give to the haulier to whom it entrusts the transport of a container or swap body a statement indicating the weight of the container or swap body transported; and
(b) The haulier to provide access to all relevant documentation provided by the shipper.
2. Member States shall lay down rules on the liability of both the shipper and the haulier as appropriate in cases where the information referred to in paragraph 1 is missing or is incorrect and the vehicle or vehicle combination is overloaded.
The purpose of this amendment is primarily to provide the road haulier assurance that the weight of container or swap body, when loaded on a road vehicle, does not cause the gross vehicle mass to exceed the maximum legally permissible weight of the vehicle combination. It also serves to clarify each party’s legal responsibilities in the event of a roadside inspection which concludes that a vehicle does exceed the maximum legally permissible weight.
Under the amendment the shipper has to provide a statement of weight to the haulier. However, compliance with Directive (EU) 2015/719 differs from the existing requirement under the SOLAS regulations to provide a Verified Gross Mass for the container. In particular, there is no requirement under Directive (EU) 2015/719 for an independently verified weight to be established through a certified and calibrated weighing of the container or swap body.
In practice, the shipper is free to decide what format the statement of weight should take. Therefore, operationally, there should be no new standard form or document or additional process to be introduced. It is understood that existing business and contractual information will be deemed sufficient provided that it includes the weight of the load.
Finally, it should be noted that all arrangements in relation to the amended Directive must comply with domestic regulation concerning the maximum loading weights. Differing national practices are, as with VGM, likely to emerge, which is less than helpful to industry stakeholders.
The UK Department for Transport has stated that the position in the United Kingdom in relation to this revised EU requirement will be such that the shipper shall provide a statement of weight to the road haulier in each of the below circumstances:
(i) The domestic road leg of an international export journey, where the container or swap body is destined for an ocean-going journey aboard a container ship.
Note 1: Shippers accredited to use Method 2 by the Marine & Coastguard Agency to provide a calculated Verified Gross Mass of the container, will be deemed compliant if they provide the VGM value to the road haulier; and
Note 2: Shippers with weighbridge facilities on site will also be deemed compliant provided that the road haulier is presented with the accurate Verified Gross Mass information.
(ii) Any containers exported on a Ro-Ro ship for short international journeys.
Note 3: Containers imported via Ro-Ro ships will comply at the point of origin – these are EU imports so presumably will have to comply with the EU Directive to produce a Statement of Weight.
(iii) Domestic journeys of a packed container or swap body carried by road.
It is to be hoped that, ultimately, digitisation in the supply chain may drive greater consistency between national, regional and international requirements in all modes.
We gratefully acknowledge the assistance in the preparation of this article of Nick Deal, [UK] Road Haulage Association Ltd
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Risk Management Director, TT Club