Spain’s ban on HGV drivers loading: “The level of compliance with the law is very general”, carriers state

This September will mark the one-year anniversary since the ban on loading and unloading for truck drivers officially came into force in Spain, under the threat of high fines. Together with neighboring Portugal, this country thus became one of the pioneers in Europe in introducing this revolutionary change.

Ever since it was officially announced, the decision garnered the attention of the transport industry across the continent. Could the events in the Iberian Peninsula be the starting point for the drivers no longer being forced to handle goods in the whole of Europe? Announcements that something similar could happen in France also caused a lot of attention. In the meantime, information has emerged that two other large economies are considering this idea.

In an exclusive interview for PlutonLogistics, representatives of the Spanish transport association FENADISMER talked about their impressions of the first year of the ban coming into force.

FENADISMER is the national federation of transport associations in Spain – gathering 22,000 small and medium-sized companies and transport cooperatives, which operate at the national and international levels. Moreover, FENADISMER is a member and the current head of the European Road Haulers Association (UETR).

– The prohibition against professional drivers carrying out loading and unloading tasks has been a historical demand of the transport associations. In our opinion, their activity should be limited to driving, while merchandise origin or destination points should have the necessary and trained personnel to handle the merchandise when the trucks arrive at the facilities – Juan Jose Gil, secretary general of the federation, told PlutonLogistics.

This law was approved in 2022 and we are very satisfied with the results – because the level of compliance is widespread. This is particularly important when taking into account that this measure is a pioneer in the European Union, with only Portugal as a precedent, where the law was approved in 2021.

According to him, in general terms, this prohibition is being applied and respected “in all logistics platforms, large distribution centers, and other relevant points where the loading and unloading of merchandise takes place.”

– Therefore, we could only say that some non-compliance could occur in small stores, but this is very limited.

When asked if there were any cases of companies attempting to “force” drivers to carry out loading/unloading operations, Juan Jose Gil replied that “fortunately, this does not happen.”

– The level of compliance with the law is very high.

He added that they will have more details about the results at the end of the year, as well as information about any recorded cases of anyone being punished for violating the ban.

Commenting on the announcements that France could soon follow Spain’s example, Juan Jose Gil points out that the ultimate goal is to implement the regulation at the European level.

– We have information that not only in France but also in Italy and Germany different transport organizations, and even the administration, are studying the possibility of introducing this ban into their national laws. Our wish is that in the future it be included in European legislation. It is important to take into account the high mobility of carriers in different countries, which would allow widespread compliance regardless of the origin or destination of the transport service.

In Spain, a royal decree from March 2022 introduced an amendment to the Road Traffic Act prohibiting drivers of vehicles with a maximum permissible weight of over 7.5 tons from loading and unloading goods both at the place of origin and at the place of destination. The exception are transports whose very nature requires the participation of truck drivers. The ban came into effect six months later, in September of last year. Failure to comply is classified as a serious offense, while a company that forces a driver to break the ban faces a fine in the amount of at least several thousand euros.

It is important to note, however, that its adoption did not come easily – the agreement between the competent ministry and the carriers was reached only after a several-week-long strike, and before that, the transport industry advocated for the ban for years.

In April of this year, at the National Transport Forum held in Madrid, it was underlined that the change affected truckers, carriers, and goods owners. On that occasion, the representatives of the Spanish Association of Manufacturers and Distributors (AECOC) stated that “the aforementioned regulation affected those who ship goods the most because they faced higher costs and the need to hire additional staff.”
FENADISMER emphasized that the situation is actually the other way around – until now, drivers carried out loading and unloading tasks for free since their clients refused to pay for that additional work. “It allowed shippers, according to their own estimates, to save hundreds of millions of euros every year.”

But here we are not talking about costs but something more important – road safety and prevention, therefore, these important issues must prevail over the possible additional costs that shippers assume to take up these tasks.

The average payment term for transport services is 65 days

Recently, several legal regulations were adopted in Spain aimed at improving the conditions in the transport industry, which has been facing significant problems for years. However, in practice, not everything is going smoothly.

At the end of 2021, the Spanish Parliament approved a law to combat late payments in the road transport sector, sanctioning those companies that pay carriers after more than 60 days, which is established as the maximum payment term.

– In the year and a half that the said law has been in force, there has been a significant reduction in payment terms for carriers, which currently stand at approximately 65 days on average. On the other hand, this means that there are still companies that do not pay on time. For this reason, the transport inspection services have been requested to act against said non-compliant companies to ensure that the law is fully obeyed.