Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Whether Hauling Freight or Private Motorist EU Promises More Accurate Real Time Traffic Information

Stentorian Tones of the European Commission Somewhat Blunt a Potentially Good Idea
Shipping News Feature

EUROPE – The European Commission can at times be the strangest of creatures, it somehow has a way of taking up a cause which seems at first perfectly reasonable, and then, principally through the tone of its subsequent deliberations, manages to raise the hackles of even the most Europhilic individuals. Such is somewhat the case with the EC’s decision a few days ago to adopt new rules designed to improve EU-wide traffic information services for road users, including both private motorists and professional freight haulage outfits.

A laboured missive produced in December says the EC’s intention is to help motorists of every type have access to information but reading through the documentation one is reminded of Big Brother as it seems what the EC requires is all such Real Time Information, covering subjects as diverse as expected delays, estimated travel times, information about accidents, road works and road closures, warnings about weather conditions, speed limits and access restrictions, officially recommended alternative routes etc., is presented in future in a standardised format.

The specifications do not make the deployment of Real-Time Traffic Information services obligatory. However, when these services are already deployed in a Member State or will be deployed after the date of application of the delegated regulation, the specifications will have to be followed. So it seems it will be OK not to disseminate information, no matter how important but should anyone choose to do so, and fail to keep to the accepted format, they will be in breach of EU regulations!

The EC says the draft specifications have gone through extensive consultations with the experts nominated by the Member States and other public and private stakeholders and they will now be transmitted to the Council and the European Parliament for their right of scrutiny with the Delegated Regulation to apply from 24 months after its entry into force. The specifications will apply to the comprehensive Trans-European road network and motorways not included in this network as well as to 'priority zones' (especially interurban/urban busy roads) when national authorities voluntarily identify such zones.

Such a Regulation of course is not in itself a bad idea but the EC is hardly selling it as such. A functioning market already exists for Real-Time Traffic Information services, and the EC’s real avowed intent is to make existing information services available to more users, facilitate the sharing of digital data, and foster the availability of more and accurate data. Real-Time Traffic Information can be delivered to drivers through various channels, such as variable message signs and speed limits, radio traffic message channels, smartphones, navigation devices, etc. and more accurate and available information would be welcomed by everyone. It is to be hoped the stentorian language of the EC doesn’t put off those independent channels whose own dissemination of such information is currently given voluntarily.

Full details of the EC’s conclusions can be seen in the Commission staffs working document supplementing Directive 2010/40/EU and its Annex and further Supplement.