Freight transport and politics are not two things that you would normally associate with each other. But they have become inextricably linked in the debate on new EU rules for the transport industry.
The future of the large number of low-wage drivers from Bulgaria became a top campaign in the elections to the European Parliament. The debate was about how new EU rules can threaten workers and widen the gap between richer and poorer countries.
The European Commission’s proposal to limit freight transport is intended to ensure that drivers have sufficient rest time and distances are limited. However, it is seen as a threat to lorry drivers from Bulgaria.
Bulgaria’s transport sector employs around 200,000 people and accounts for 15% of GDP, but the new rules can create challenges for the country’s truck drivers. According to the rules, truck drivers must spend rest in hotels instead of in their cabins and Bulgarian drivers can return home with an empty truck every three to four weeks.
The result could be that thousands of Bulgarian employees and transport companies move to richer countries to be closer to the markets with which they work.
Those who oppose the new EU rules say that they protect richer countries such as France and Germany against competition from low-wage countries such as Bulgaria.