The national transport of goods carried out by a carrier registered in a member state of the European Union, on the territory of another member nation, is called cabotage. In order to be considered cabotage, these transports must be carried out for a fee and on a temporary basis.

It can be very convenient for companies registered in a country where transport services are expensive to use cabotage. For example, two companies from France could call on carriers from Bulgaria or Romania, which practice much more advantageous prices. That is precisely why cabotage is regulated in detail at community level.

In what follows, we’ll take you through what cabotage is, how it’s limited, and what you need to make sure you can practice it legally. You can also discover the fines that European legislation imposes if its rules on cabotage are not respected.

Cabotage – What does it mean and what rules exist in the EU?

Road cabotage, by definition, represents a range of transport services that carriers who are not resident in a European Union member country provide on the territory of that country. The EEC Regulation adds to this definition the obligation that cabotage transport is carried out only by carriers that are authorized for Community transport operations.

It is also mentioned in the EU regulations that such transports are carried out so that the load of a motor vehicle is not non-existent when returning to the border. Practically, the aim is to make the transport of goods more efficient. This is possible due to the fact that after the delivery of a shipment, the vehicle is loaded again and makes a new transfer of goods on its route.

In order to avoid negative phenomena such as unfair competition, there is an important set of rules that must be respected by cabotage carriers. A first essential rule is that represented by the fact that operations of this kind are limited according to their number and the interval in which they are carried out. Thus, a carrier can carry out a maximum of three camouflage operations within a maximum of seven days from the end of the last international delivery to another country. The transport of goods from one country to another is not considered cabotage.

In addition, even if cabotage is allowed in any member state of the European Union, a carrier can only carry out one operation in a country, no more than three days after the unloaded vehicle entered that state.

Conditions and documents – Why do you need legal assistance?

The road transport cabotage conditions are strict when it comes to the necessary documentation. Carriers are required to provide clear evidence of the international transport they have carried out before each cabotage operation. It is also mentioned in the EU regulation and the obligation to present evidence related to the operations carried out in the state where cabotage operations are carried out, if it was there four days before the international transport.

The information that carriers must hold and present is set out in the following documents:

  • road map for the cabotage operation;
  • CMR for international transport.

The data contained in these documents are the name, address and signature of the sender, the road freight transport operator and the consignee, the signature of the consignee and the date of delivery, the place and date of collection of the goods, the place where the delivery will take place, general information about the goods (packaging method, nature of goods, description of dangerous goods, number of specific markings and number of packages), weight of goods and registration number of vehicle and trailer.

If you are a carrier, it is necessary to know very well the legislation of each country in which you carry out road cabotage operations. You need to know what the restrictions are regarding perishable products, animals or dangerous goods. Also important are the rules regarding driving time, vehicle sizes and the level of VAT on transport.

Each member state of the European Union has specific legislation regarding cabotage-type transport. It is essential to know and respect these rules, and the best solution to avoid fines is to use the legal assistance services offered by CargoTrack. With their help, you can avoid fines that vary from 135 euros to 150,000 euros, depending on the state and the case.

We also offer you GPS monitoring packages, as well as hardware products, software and other accessories through which you can always be aware of how the transports carried out by the vehicles in the fleet you own are carried out. Choose the security offered by CargoTrack!

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