New EU Law Tightens Rules for Cargo Owners

New EU Law Tightens Rules for Cargo Owners

A European Union directive that comes into effect next month will tighten the rules around cargo and will require all shippers to declare the weight of their cargo when bringing goods into the EU to be transported within the region.

The directive is effectively an extension of the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) amendment of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) rules that became part of maritime law in July 2016.

The rule changes, brought in by EU directive 2015/719 will come into effect on May 7th and will require shippers transporting goods in swapbodies and containers to give hauliers what amounts to a statement of compliance, guaranteeing that in transporting the cargo, the haulier will not be in breach of the rules on weight limits. Shippers will be expected to confirm that the combined weight of the transport unit and cargo, when added to that of the haulier’s truck, will not be in excess of the legal weight limits that apply for hauliers operating by road in the EU.

Industry reaction to the extension of the rules has been positive. At a workshop held during the recent Multimodal 2017 show in Birmingham, which this year celebrated its 10th anniversary, a number of industry insiders spoke about the rules.

Aart Hille Ris, the head of commercial at a major UK container terminal, said that since the VGM amendment came into effect last year, there had been a number of incidents in which trucks delivering containers to the terminal had been in breach of weight limit rules.

Chris Welsh, the Freight Transport Association’s (FTA) director of global and European policy expressed the hope that the new directive would address this problem, by putting the emphasis on the shippers to be open about the weight of their cargo.

Welsh pointed out that under the existing system, hauliers can find themselves in the position of being in breach of the rules on road weight limits without realising it. While he acknowledged that this practice was rare in the UK, he explained that it can have dire consequences for hauliers, who may find they have their operating licences removed.

By forcing the shipper to provide a statement to the haulier, as they now do with the VPM, Welsh said that hauliers would not be put in the position of being in breach of the law, and that this tightening of the rules would be welcomed by the road freight industry.

He went to say that the new directive was preferable to the introduction of entirely new legislation, which would have been more disruptive to the freight industry as a whole. Instead, the FTA had been able to secure an agreement with the EU that they could use existing paperwork such as packing notices, and the EU has confirmed that shippers exporting goods outside the EU will automatically be deemed to be in compliance with directive 2015/719 by virtue of their having an existing valid VGM.