How trucks from eastern Europe are coming to dominate German roads

If you drive on the motorway and on country roads often, you may have noticed not only an increase in trucks, but that these vehicles hail from countries such as Poland, Czech Republic and Romania. This development highlights several issues.

How trucks from eastern Europe are coming to dominate German roads
Trucks on the motorway on the way Germany from Poland. Photo: DPA.

The mileage of lorries with a gross vehicle weight of 7.5 tonnes or more on roads in Germany rose to around 25.2 billion kilometres between January and September 2017, according to surveys conducted by the Federal Office for Goods Transport (BAG).

This figure is 3.5 percent higher than the figure determined for the previous year, thus demonstrating strong growth in automobile freight transport across the country.

Earlier predictions saw an average annual growth rate of only 2 percent. But those predictions have now been surpassed due to Germany’s positive economic development and favourable diesel prices.

Not only are there more and more lorries on roads across the Bundesrepublik, current data show that many of them are coming from outside Germany.

READ ALSO: Austria files lawsuit against Germany over autobahn 'foreigner tolls'

Lorries from countries that have become EU members since 2004 accounted for 33 percent of heavy goods traffic between January and August this year. Ten years ago, this figure was almost half the amount at 18 percent in the same period.

The largest share of this figure consists of trucks from Poland – just under 16 percent. Trucks from the Czech Republic and Romania follow suit with about 4 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively.

But this development isn’t necessarily a good thing for German freight forwarding agencies, as this is the tenth year in a row that their share of traffic has steadily declined.

In the period from January to August 2017, trucks with domestic license plates accounted for under 58 percent of heavy goods traffic. Ten years earlier, it was almost 66 percent. The situation is similar in other founding EU member states, according to Die Welt.

Meanwhile, associations in Germany are concerned about cheap competition. According to truck lobbyists and independent market experts, a significant growth in truck transport in the country highlights among other things a difference in wages and social conditions for lorry drivers across the EU.

Many trucks from abroad for instance are permanently stationed in Germany and drivers are only home every few weeks or months. These drivers mainly come from central and eastern European countries and they are paid on the terms and conditions of their home countries.

In August, French President Emmanuel Macron pushed to overhaul the scope of the controversial so-called Posted Workers Directive rule which allows EU firms to send temporary workers from low-wage countries to richer nations without paying their local social charges (e.g. health and welfare systems). Backed by Germany, France wants the job duration of posted employees to be limited to 12 months.

In Germany, there is a lack of truck drivers to fill demand. According to the Federal Association of Road Haulage, Logistics and Disposal (BGL), the effects of the shortage of skilled workers in logistics are taking on previously unknown dimensions.

While over 16,211 apprentices and trainees acquired a truck driver’s license in Germany last year, some 30,000 truck drivers retire each year.

SEE ALSO: Six reasons why I never want to drive on the Autobahn again

The development is also something that affects everyday car drivers on German streets. Non-truck drivers might be able to relate with the feeling of arriving at a rest stop on the motorway only to have to leave again because it’s so crowded.

In Germany, rest and leisure time for truck drivers are legally prescribed, meaning that car parks on motorways are often full – partly due to an abundance of parked lorries.

A car park on the autobahn. Photo: DPA.

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EXPLAINED: The rules for riding an e-scooter in Germany

The popularity of electric scooters in Germany has exploded in the last few years, but many people still aren't sure what the rules for driving them are. We break them down.

EXPLAINED: The rules for riding an e-scooter in Germany

Germany is currently the world’s second-largest market for e-scooter rental after the USA, which might explain why you have the feeling that you’re seeing the electric vehicles everywhere these days, at least in cities. 

According to a recent survey by ADAC,15 percent of people in Germany aged 16 and over regularly use e-scooters. Of these, 45 percent own their own scooter, while 55 percent rent the vehicles from sharing services.

Here are the rules for driving an e-scooter that you need to know.

Who can drive an e-scooter?

Anyone over the age of 14 can ride an electric scooter and you don’t need to have a driving license to use one. However, many of the traffic rules for motorists also apply to e-scooter riders, and misbehaving on a scooter could end up costing you points on your driving license or even getting you a driving ban.

READ ALSO: Driving in Germany: Eight German road signs that confuse foreigners

Can more than one person ride an e-scooter?

No. Only one person is allowed to ride a scooter and if you are caught riding in two, you will get a €10 fine.

Although it might be fun, riding side by side on two scooters is also not allowed and can be punished with a fine of between €15 and €30. Instead, you and your friends have to ride in single file.

Where can you ride an e-scooter?

E-scooters are principally allowed on bike paths and in bike lanes and you can only drive them on the road if there is no bike lane available. If you do drive on the road, you must keep as far to the right as possible and you are not allowed to ride in bus lanes.

It’s also forbidden to ride an e-scooter on the motorway – doing so will get you a €20 fine. 

Riding an e-scooter on the pavement, in pedestrian-only zones, or in one-way streets against the direction of traffic is also not allowed and can land you a fine of between €15 and €30.

However, e-scooters are allowed on one-way or no-entry roads which have a “cyclists free” sign.

A no-entry sign with a “cyclists free” sign underneath. This sign also applies to e-scooters. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Jens Kalaene

Which traffic light rules apply to electric scooters?

E-scooter riders have to abide by traffic lights just like motorists, and the fine for ignoring a red light on an e-scooter is between €60 and €180.

However, if there is also a traffic light for bicycles, e-scooter riders can follow this one instead.

Is there an alcohol limit for electric scooters?

Yes, the same alcohol limits for motorists apply to electric scooter riders.

This means that anyone who drives with a blood alcohol level of between 0.5 to 1.09 is liable for a fine of €500, a 1-month driving ban and 2 points on their driving license.

It’s a criminal offence to ride an electric scooter with a blood alcohol concentration of at more than 1.1, as is causing an accident with a blood alcohol level of more than 0.3.

Under 21s must be completely alcohol free – with a blood alcohol level of 0.0 – to ride an e-scooter.

Where can e-scooters be parked?

E-scooters can be parked at the roadside, on the pavement and in pedestrian zones with designated e-scooter parking areas. However, e-scooters must be parked in such a way that they don’t obstruct or endanger pedestrians or other road users. 

Parked e-scooters in Stuttgart. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Schmidt

Which rules are there for e-scooter owners?

If you’ve upgraded from renting to owning your own scooter, there are certain requirements you have to be aware of. 

Firstly, it’s mandatory to have liability insurance and a special sticker (similar to a license plate) stuck to the scooter to show that it is insured.

READ ALSO: German words you need to know: Haftpflichtversicherung

E-scooter owners also have to make sure that they have two independently working brakes and lights. 

Which other rules should I be aware of?

As with driving a car or cycling, you are not allowed to use your mobile phone while riding an e-scooter (which is pretty challenging anyway). If you’re caught doing so, you’ll get a €100 fine and a point on your driving license. 

It’s not mandatory to wear a helmet when riding an e-scooter, though it is recommended.