EU promotes digitalisation of freight transport information – Coreper confirms agreement with Parliament

The EU is a taking a major step forward in the digitalisation of transport by making it easier for businesses to provide information to authorities in digital form. Today, member states’ ambassadors meeting in the Council’s Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) approved the proposal creating a uniform legal framework for the use of electronic freight transport information in all modes of transport. A provisional agreement was reached between the presidency and the European Parliament on 26 November.

The new rules will require all relevant public authorities to accept information made available electronically on certified platforms whenever companies choose to use such a format to provide information as proof of compliance with legislative requirements. However, companies will still be able to present the information in paper format if they prefer.

Within 30 months from the entry into force of the new rules, the Commission will adopt technical specifications, seeking to ensure interoperability between the various IT systems used for the exchange of freight transport information. The Commission will also set out common procedures and detailed rules for accessing and processing such information, to ensure that the rules are applied consistently by the authorities concerned. All this is done through secondary legislation.

At present, most freight transport companies and other transport business stakeholders use paper documents. The main barrier to the wider use of digital transport documents is the variable (but overall rather low) degree of acceptance of digital documents by the various authorities. A large number of different, non-interoperable IT systems are used for information exchange.

Increased digitalisation of freight transport and logistics will lead to significant administrative cost savings for companies, particularly SMEs, which represent the vast majority of transport and logistics companies in the EU. It will also cut costs for authorities and improve enforcement, and make the transport sector more efficient and sustainable.

Next steps

The agreed text will now undergo legal and linguistic finalisation. It must then be formally adopted, first by the Council and then by the Parliament (early second reading).

The new regulation will enter into force 20 days after publication. Some of the provisions will be applicable from the entry into force of the legal act; others, four years later. The obligation for public authorities to accept information made available electronically will start to apply five years after the entry into force of the regulation, depending on the adoption of the relevant technical specifications by the Commission.

A link to the approved text will be added here soon.