Here in Australia we all complain about the problem involved in crossing the borderline with a truck. Things have been getting a lot better in recent years, but there is still clear disparity between the way regulations are written and interpreted from state to state.
There is also a wide range in the way trucks drivers are treated when having documents, trucks etc examined at the road side check. It is still the situation that a driver doing the right thing as they are pulled into a weighing station, approaches some in some states with more trepidation than they would in others.
This is being addressed on the East Coast, albeit slowly, as the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator brings the enforcement arms of the state authorities under its umbrella and searches for more consistency across the board.
However, the transition across the border for Western Australian and Northern Territorian operators as they head East is still traumatising. Many operators refuse to leave the West as the extra compliance load erodes profitability and induces increased hair loss.
We shouldn’t worry so much, we are not alone. In the US each state has a different fuel tax rate and operators have to record the odometer reading every time they cross a state border. After this a complex calculation takes place as to how much fuel duty is owed by whom to whomever.
An email I received from Europe today was trying explain the gobbledy-gook around allowing longer and heavier combination to cross borders within the European Union. As is the case in Australia, there are some states which ban these trucks altogether, others which load them up with extra restriction and some rational souls who allow these trucks to travel across national borders without fuss.
The combinations are those working under the European Modular System (EMS). This allows for vehicles up to 25.25 metres long and up to 60 tonnes GCM. They usually take the form of a heavy rigid, pulling a semitrailer attached using a tandem dolly, but can also be a semi pulling a pig trailer, in some cases.
The smart Scandinavians let these trucks pass throughout their region, crossing the borderline unhindered on pre-specified routes. Other countries involved include Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the Czech Republic, plus some of the states in Germany, but not all. It is important to note here that many of those involved do not have common borders, so much of the use of these trucks happens within national borders.
Weight limits can vary, in Czech the GCM is 48 tonnes. Permits are needed and last just three months before they have to be renewed. However, the criteria in many of the cases are quite sensible. The operator can get a permit as long as the end points of the journey are no more than 10km from a motorway entrance, although railway crossings are not allowed. In fact, the motorway network in Europe is extensive so these limitations allow for quite a wide spread network to grow.
So, yes we have some rather silly and irritating problems when we are crossing the borderline, here in Australia, but many of the rest of the transport systems of the advanced world share our woes. However, I am not sure whether the truckie sitting fuming after getting a ticket for an administrative offence will feel better knowing there is also some Belgian driver sitting at a border somewhere in Europe suffering the same fate.