French hauliers consult on roadblock protests

French road haulage firms have not ruled out blocking roads in the coming weeks as they mull staging industrial action in protest against a government move to reduce tax breaks on diesel fuel granted to the sector.

Currently, firms benefit from a discount of €0.18 per litre of fuel and the French authorities are proposing to trim this to €0.16 per litre from 1 January 2020, to generate €140m in additional tax revenues the government will use to finance improvements in road infrastructure.

While the tax break reduction appears insignificant on paper, trade bodies estimate that it will add between €500 to €800 to the fuel bill of each truck on an annual basis.

The boss of one haulage firm, which operates 66 trucks, said if adopted, the measure would erode almost 50% of the company’s net margin.

The Organisation des Transporteurs Routiers Européens (OTRE) which largely represents small to medium-sized enterprises, said the government had acted hastily and without consulting the sector and that “a red line has been crossed.” Secretary general Jean Marc Rivera commented: “We are going to consult with company chiefs to see what the mood is, which doesn’t exclude taking action to block roads after the summer holidays.”

Élisabeth Charrier, general secretary of France’s road haulage federation, FNTR, told France Télévisions the government was handing a competitive advantage to foreign hauliers.

“French hauliers have already lost 80% of their share of the European market and this measure will sound the death-knell for France as a transporter of international road freight.”