Cross-border movement between France and Belgium by trucks weighing 44 tons

Following an order of the European Commission to fully transpose the directive 2015/719 modifying the weights and dimensions directive 96/53/CE, there will be a modification in the French law (code de la route) to strictly forbid the border crossing by trucks weighing over 40 tons.

The European Commission reproached France for not transposing the directive fully: for not formally forbidding the crossing at payload over 40 tons. This topic has been already a matter of dispute within France. 44-ton crossing was not formally allowed either, so most carriers/shippers on the French side did not load trucks moving to Belgium or Italy with more than 40 tons. Oppositely, many Belgian haulers dared doing so. However, they’ve never got a fine as the main risk would be in case of an accident with casualty and the judge using the heavier load as an additional evidence of the liability or shared liability of the carrier.

The French-Italian traffic has been also impacted.

Regarding the Dutch-Belgian border, the situation is different. The Benelux Treaty that allows 44-ton crossing anticipates the EU directive. So, the Dutch-Belgian situation cannot be replicated in the other Member States.

In France, the government was unable to get a bilateral agreement with Belgium for many succeeding reasons depending on the administration:

– The influence of green NGOs, saying it would increase competition with rail freight;
– The fact that a bilateral agreement would have to be signed by each autonomous region of Belgium as road transport regulation is handled at that level, and the French State cannot enter into an agreement with a region;
– The fact that there is no such thing as a bilateral agreement under the EU law.

Source: This information has been provided by ESC member AUTF – French Shippers’ Council. The Ministry of Transport informed them about the project of the decree. The road driving regulation (code de la route) will be probably amended by decree within a few weeks/months with probably a very short term for implementation. This information is provided as a caution not to plan operations based on border crossing with 44 tons.