Brenner traffic bans: the EU censures Austria

Reference legislation

Updates regarding Austria’s imposition of bans and restrictions on the circulation of industrial vehicles along the Brenner Pass.

After the appeal submitted by the Italian authorities on February 2024 (we had already talked about in this article), the European Commission has voted to officially censure Austria's unilateral measures that limit the transport of commercial goods, against the European principles of free movement of goods. 

Since 2010, Tyrol has introduced a series of bans on the circulation of trucks (the first driving ban in force was the night-time truck ban) to protect air quality. Italy has always denounced Austria’s imposition of restrictions which limits free movement of goods and people, in addition to the significant economic damages for Italian companies. The Brenner Pass is a key transit route between the two countries: Italy exports over 32% of its production along the Brenner Pass. These limitations penalize Italy with consequences for the entire North Eastern system, causing an increase in heavy traffic in Friuli Venezia Giulia, in Tarvisio, where the second motorway crossing between Italy and Austria is located. 

After years of discussions to find an agreement, the European Commission - which held a hearing of the parties in Brussels, in April - confirmed that the measures in force in Austria impose restrictions on the transport and consequently restrict the free movement of goods. In particular, these measures impact on road freight transport, covering heavy vehicles, and including the night-time truck ban, the double night-time toll, the sectoral driving ban and the winter driving ban on Saturdays. Even taking into account Austria’s explanations regarding actions to reduce environmental impact, the EU considered all the measures as inconsistent and unjustified. 

At this point, Italy will proceed to formalize the appeal to the Court of Justice as provided for by art. 259 of the Treaty to re-establish a legal framework favourable to businesses and protect the principle of freedom within the European Union. This result is a significant victory for Italy, as well as for the national companies in the transport sector. The road haulage associations were rejoicing after the sentence and are calling for a discussion to guarantee respect for the environment and freedom of movement, as well as the removal of limitations as soon as possible.