Toespraak van staatsecretaris Van Veldhoven op bijeenkomst Group on Road Transport

Staatsecretaris Van Veldhoven sprak donderdag 14 maart 2019 op een bijeenkomst van de Group on Road Transport van het International Transport Forum in Den Haag. De toespraak is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Distinguished Secretary-General, Dr. Kim,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the Netherlands. It’s an honour to speak to you on behalf of the Dutch government.

Our country has always enjoyed close ties with your organisation. In fact the Netherlands was 1 of its 16 founding nations back in 1953, when the European Conference of Ministers of Transport was established. And in the 1980s the former Dutch deputy prime minister, Mr. Jan Terlouw, held the office of secretary-general for a lengthy period.

It’s my privilege to know him well; we belong to the same political party. He’s now 87 years old, but still a young maverick at heart. You could call him the green conscience of Dutch society. His wise words are a source of inspiration for many people in my country. Not least his speeches about the need to restore faith in our political system and make our society more sustainable.

And for me too, Mr Terlouw is a beacon of light in turbulent times. Times in which important choices are being made. Choices that will affect our futures and our children’s futures. Do we stay on the path of international multilateral cooperation? And can we start to show more climate ambition, and put climate first?

Ladies and gentlemen,

On the subject of ‘turbulent times’, there’s one word in particular that springs to mind: Brexit. In a little over2 weeks the UK will leave the EU. Are we heading for a ‘deal’ or ‘no deal’ scenario? Or a delayed Brexit?

It’s disappointing that the UK government has been unable to ensure a majority for the Withdrawal Agreement. As Dutch MP Mark Rutte stated yesterday a solution must now come from London.

I don’t need to tell you which option the Netherlands would prefer. For us it’s a no-brainer.

Our country, with its open economy, is a long-established strong trading nation. The UK is a close neighbour and trading partner, and we enjoy robust and long-standing commercial ties. We are 1 of the UK’s biggest trading partners in Europe. Much of that trade with the UK goes by lorry. Each year, 180,000 lorries carrying 3 million tonnes of goods set off from the Netherlands to the UK. And nearly as many travel in the opposite direction, coming over by ferry or through the Channel tunnel.

So let’s be clear: even after Brexit, the UK will still be a close neighbour and our trade relationship will remain. But what’s also crystal clear: there will be no winners, no matter what happens on 29 March.

You won’t be surprised to hear that my country is pleased and relieved that the EU appears to have found a good solution to prevent major disruption to European road haulage after the UK’s divorce from the EU. Lorries can continue to travel between the EU and the UK at least until the end of this year. So we’ve avoided the prospect of a ‘lorry lottery’.

For a long time it looked as if ECMT permits would be the only solution for transporting goods to the UK.   The Netherlands has always said that these permits would not provide a long-term solution after Brexit. There simply aren’t enough ECMT permits to maintain the current flow of goods carried by road between the EU and the UK.

Believe it or not, Brexit does have a silver lining for you: it has highlighted your important work within the ECMT and the unique nature of your cooperation. A multilateral quota system involving 43 countries. A global platform for better transport.

You’ve done pioneering work – and still do – to ensure a level playing field in Europe, to raise the industry’s professional standards, and to encourage sustainable transport. You are proof that international cooperation – whether it be in the EU, the OECD or the ECMT – is the road to a competitive, powerful, innovative and green economy.

Sustainable transport is a subject that takes up a lot of my energies as State Secretary. And let there be no doubt, we must accelerate our efforts if we are to achieve our goals for sustainable mobility and transport. We are not on track – we are off track. We have to face facts. By 2030, for example, global freight volumes will have grown by 70 per cent. And that’s on top of the enormous growth in passenger traffic.

The Netherlands has set itself an ambitious target for transport: limiting carbon emissions to 25 mega tonnes by 2030. The EU also recently set a target for road haulage: by 2030, emissions from new lorries should be at least 30 per cent lower than they are now.

I welcome these ambitions. They’re absolutely vital: to achieve the objectives we agreed in Paris, as well as to ensure people have clean air to breathe. I’m optimistic about achieving them. Because:

  • we have the technology;
  • we have opportunities and
  • we have the tools.

If we want to transform the transport sector by 2030, we need a high level of ambition, smart approaches and immediate action. We have to be bold and we have to work together with all the trailblazers who are seizing opportunities and are determined to remove barriers to progress.

A lot is already being done to make the Dutch transport sector cleaner and more sustainable. Your journey here probably took you through Schiphol airport, which already boasts 100 zero-emission buses. Just to mention a few key practices

We’re also providing businesses with incentives to buy electric vans for urban deliveries. Smart logistics, cleaner fuels and e trucks are the future – there’s no turning back. What’s more, from 2025 all buses will be zero-emission, the 30 largest cities will embrace zero-emission urban freight delivery, and our 2 biggest cities, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, will introduce zero-emission zones.

However, governments cannot achieve its ambitions by acting alone. We need support from everybody: companies, science, cities and citizens.
We need the engagement, enterprise and investment of global players to succeed. Nobody should stand on the side-lines.

In government we can speed up the introduction of stronger regulation, we can invest in technologies and innovations to get them to market sooner, and we can join forces with cities and businesses to address challenges together. Together we can move the transport sector into the fast lane.

The ITF, with its 59 member states, also has an important role to play in this effort. The annual ITF Summit for instance – which I’ll attend in Leipzig – provides a valuable forum for discussing sustainable transport at European and even global level. Not only in terms of road haulage, but all modes of transport.

And then there’s the Decarbonising Transport Initiative to promote carbon-neutral mobility. The Transport Research Centre also does a great deal of useful work in the field of sustainable mobility solutions. I should also mention the ITF’s engagement with the private sector through the Corporate Partnership Board.

Ladies and gentlemen,

When it comes to the ECMT, I see the following 3 challenges.

The first – and this won’t surprise you – is further action on sustainability. You should continue down the path you have taken with the Quality Charter and launch the debate on how to proceed, looking further ahead. And if we soon have lorries on the road that run on electricity or hydrogen, how will that work under the system?

A second challenge is further digitalisation. In due course the transport sector must become paperless. This is a major topic in the industry. And rightly so. Digitalisation brings significant benefits. It offers greater efficiency and lower costs for companies and inspection bodies. And it’s better for the environment. Processing flows of goods more quickly, more efficiently and without paperwork is vital for both the Netherlands and Europe as a whole. Using digital freight documents alone could save the road haulage sector hundreds of millions of euros a year. We want to take advantage of those savings.

But we can only really achieve that if we take a cross-border approach. That’s why, for example, we’re conducting an e CMR trial with our Benelux partners. Going paperless is an enormous challenge that requires a sustained effort. Like running a marathon. The Netherlands would like to run that marathon with you. And maybe it will help that I’m a marathon runner myself ;).

A third and final challenge – and also the most difficult – concerns the reservations that various countries still have. I applaud the non-EU countries that have changed their national rules and working methods in quite a short time to comply with the Quality Charter. In my view this should also have an impact in terms of at least reducing those reservations. I hope that those countries with reservations will reconsider them.


Finally, I’d like to wish you a productive and stimulating discussion today. Your work is now more important than ever, with Brexit looming and the enormous challenge of greening the engine of our economy: the transport sector. We have to move on and tackle the challenges I’ve outlined. And as we move on, we have to make sure we stay together. Because cooperation is the key to a future with a strong, smart and sustainable transport sector.

Thank you for your attention.