Wednesday, June 13, 2012

European Road Haulage Outfits Embroiled in Another Freight and Logistics Fraud

Permit Rows and Truck Toll Swindles Times Get Harder for Many
Shipping News Feature

EUROPE – As times get harder for international road haulage outfits there are signs of a hardening of attitudes between various countries. Russia and Poland may have thrashed out a one all draw on the football pitch but the Russians clearly think they have given too much ground of late in the field of road freight and have reduced the number of transit permits they grant their Polish neighbours. Mean while an alleged fraud involving an international freight and logistics group brings more unwanted headlines to industry and individual companies alike.

It is reported that permit allocations are down for the Poles by around 10% to allow more work for Russian outfits into the EU and the change may have an effect on prices if shippers continue to use their current hauliers as the permits become more valuable. Russia and other Eastern European neighbours maintain dozens of bilateral agreements similar to those which were formerly in place in the various EU countries before union allowing the use of each others trucks within their countries for international road movements.

The move is likely to have a direct effect on the make up of trucks trading between Russia and the EU and may spark a round of tit for tat reductions with other countries feeling the pinch. Already many EU hauliers complain that they are subjected to unfair competition and the latest scandal, mainly involving Eastern European drivers working for Giraud Iberica, a Spanish subsidiary of Geodis, itself part of the national French logistics outfit SNCF does nothing to improve the image.

There has been a spate of road toll offences perpetrated against the Autoroutes du Sud de France and these have led to more than a dozen pending prosecutions with at least one driver already sentenced to eight months in prison for swindling the company. Drivers often are found to be trying to take unfair advantage with scams like magnets on the tachometer senders but the latest case seems to be nothing short of a criminal conspiracy.

Up to twenty five drivers are suspected on conspiracy to defraud in a case where drivers colluded at motorway service areas to exchange toll passes in pre-arranged meetings. One driver would take a ticket from the first toll booth then pass to another en route. When the first driver left the motorway he would claim he had mislaid his pass and have to pay the maximum toll, something he would have had to do regardless.

The second driver then had to pay only a tiny fraction of the toll charge, or he may have had exchanged with the first driver so both paid considerably less than was actually owed. Autoroutes du Sud de France are claiming that ‘millions of Euro’s’ may be involved but the amounts will doubtless be extremely hard to calculate.

Such scams have been an open secret amongst the road haulage community for some time but never before have an organised ring of drivers been shown to have been involved and the penalties will doubtless be very severe for those found guilty. Geodis executives will be incensed that the company name has again been linked with a criminal offence after the problems it has had in the past.