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Tighter Emissions Rules from EU may drive small Hauliers out of business

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The European Commission (EC) implemented tougher emission standards for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), which the International Road Transport Union (IRU) labelled as “overly ambitious” and “idealistic.” The IRU cautioned that these regulations could impede small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from competing with larger corporations. The revised legislation broadens EC emissions standards to include almost all new HGVs with certified CO2 emissions, imposing reduction targets. This now also covers smaller trucks, urban buses, coaches, and trailers.

In line with the EC’s aim to slash total carbon emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, the HGV sector must achieve a 45% emissions reduction by 2030, up from the previous 30%. Subsequently, the sector is required to meet a 65% reduction by 2035 and a 90% reduction by 2040. The EC commented, “The enhanced CO2 emissions reduction requirements should drive an increasing proportion of zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles being deployed… while ensuring that innovation in the automotive value chain and the associated high-quality jobs can be maintained.” However, IRU EU advocacy director Raluca Marian voiced concerns: “Regarding the necessary infrastructure for scaling up zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles, we are at ‘moment zero’ – it has just started. In terms of the awareness and willingness of our sector’s customers to share the high cost of the transition, we have slightly moved past moment zero but remain far from the target. Essentially, legislators have thus far worked on ideals; now it’s time to evaluate what the EU economy can realistically achieve.”
The haulage industry has been struggling with rising operating costs and declining customer demand, tightening profit margins that make investing in new vehicles unfeasible.

An IRU spokesperson told The Loadstar that smaller haulage companies, with limited capital to invest in electric or lower-emission vehicles, would be “severely impacted” by the new rules. “The high upfront costs of transitioning to cleaner technologies can be prohibitive for these companies, potentially restricting their ability to compete with larger firms that have more resources to invest in new vehicles. Without the means to update their fleets, these companies might experience diminished operational capabilities, especially as cities and countries implement stricter emission regulations.”

The spokesperson warned that this could lead to decreased market competitiveness and potentially force some SME hauliers out of business. The EC mentioned a “transition pathway” is being developed to support the “transition of the automotive value chain,” but details have yet to be released. The commission indicated that this would “pay particular attention to small and medium-sized enterprises in the automotive supply chain.” The commission is also considering appropriate actions and incentives to make zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles more affordable and to “assist micro-enterprises in purchasing. Large companies have greater purchasing power for zero-emission fleet options, which could lead to industry consolidation. 

According to the EC, heavy-duty vehicles account for over a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions from road transport in the EU. Italy, Poland, and Slovakia voted against the bill proposed on February 14, 2023, while the Czech Republic abstained, and all other member states voted in favour.

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