European concern at Germany’s permit plans

ESTA is planning to talk to the European Commission about the growing concerns surrounding planned changes to Germany’s VEMAGS permit regulations for heavy and abnormal transport.

VEMAGS is the German online system for the application and approval for large-scale and heavy transports in all 16 federal states. Transport companies and their clients fear the new rules will lead to increased costs, unnecessary bureaucracy and greater delays.

Debate about reforming the rules has been underway for many months, but the latest changes were announced following a meeting of Germany’s Bundesrat – or Federal Council – on November 6 and are due to come into force on January 1, 2021.

From that date permits can only be ordered from the regional authority where the transport starts or where the transport company has its headquarters or a major branch office. This implies that companies not based in Germany can only apply to the region where they enter Germany. 

The impact will be to greatly reduce the number of authorities from whom a transport company can obtain a permit for a heavy transport or abnormal load. The cost of obtaining permits under the new regulations is also expected to increase, in some cases significantly.

ESTA Director Ton Klijn said: “At present there are many unanswered questions that do not just affect German companies but European operators. These changes will impact the costs and scheduling of projects that are already at an advanced stage of planning . We urgently need clarification of how these new regulations will be interpreted on the ground by the authorities, how they will be implemented and what the costs will be.”

Delays and uncertainty in the current system means it suffers from what the authorities have called “permit tourism”. Because the time to award a permit varies from days to weeks, companies often send in applications to multiple authorities and accept the one from the authority that reacts the quickest.

Klijn added: “Quite understandably, the German authorities want to deal with the permit tourism issue, but they are planning changes that will cause great difficulties, rather than reducing the delays that are the cause of the problems in the first place.”

ESTA Section Transport President Andr√© Friderici, Technical Director of Swiss company Friderici Special, voiced the concerns of many companies when he said: ” We envisage these changes could  lead to an overflow of applications in certain areas and even longer permit production times than we already have.”