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Efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and their impact on the freight transport industry

In light of the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, authorities across the world are increasingly implementing comprehensive measures in order to reduce further spread. In Norway, authorities have temporary implemented automatic quarantine for every person coming to Norway from a different country. While these measures can have a big impact on the freight transport industry, there are some key exceptions concerning transit of goods and passengers to be aware of.

Quarantine upon arrival in Norway

As per Monday 16 March, every person arriving in Norway, is required to go into quarantine for 14 days. This follows from a new administrative regulation implemented on Sunday 15 March.

However, following Section 2 of the Regulation, persons who are essential to maintain the proper operation of critical public functions and attend to fundamental needs of the population are exempted from the obligation to quarantine. The exemption explicitly extends to drivers transporting goods and passengers. Other actors in the supply chain necessary for the operation of these functions are also included, for instance employees working in distribution facilities, warehouses etc.

As a main rule, this means that professional drivers will not automatically be quarantined upon entry to Norway. Use of the exemption must be clarified with the entity’s management and kept only to employees strictly necessary to uphold proper operation.

The situation on the ground is, however, still unclear and in development. For the time being, the exemption only applies to professional drivers entering the Norwegian border via truck/freight transport. Drivers are advised to bring a digital version of their employment agreement to present to Norwegian authorities upon entry.

Drivers entering without working on a specific transport mission or via other means of transportation, such as flight, train or car, are generally not exempted from quarantine. The same applies to drivers or personnel employed by Norwegian companies, who have stayed outside of Norway for other purposes than transportation and returns to Norway to perform work.

The Norwegian Truck Drivers’ Association (In Norwegian: Norges Lastebileier-Forbund) have alerted the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, and are currently awaiting further clarification regarding the scope of the exemption for professional drivers entering Norway via other means of transportation to perform work.

Temporary exemption from provisions on driving- and rest time

The Norwegian Public Roads Administration have issued a temporary dispensation from Articles 6 and 8 in Regulation (EF) 561/2006. (Article 7 on breaks is not exempted). Nevertheless, the driver must have reduced daily rest periods for a minimum of 9 hours between two weekly rest periods, and at least one reduced weekly rest period each week during the entire dispensation period.

The dispensation only applies to transport of:

  • Food distribution and related industries, such as distribution of fuel
  • Raw materials
  • Animal feed or live animals
  • Medicine or medical equipment
  • Equipment for hospitals or other public institutions

The dispensation period is from March 13 and (so far) for the subsequent 30 days.

Temporary exemption from the prohibition of anti-competitive agreements

To ensure the continued availability of necessary goods and services, the Norwegian government has given the transport industry a temporary exemption from the Norwegian Competition Act’s prohibition of anti-competitive agreements.

Cooperation under the exemption must not exceed that which is necessary. Furthermore, the cooperation must ensure efficient use of resources and take due account of consumer interests.

The exemption applies to both transportation of persons and goods, and has currently been granted for an initial period of 3 months. Companies which decide to make use of the exemption is obligated to inform the Norwegian Competition Authority.

 Further development

The measures taken to reduce spread of COVID-19 are still in development and their practical implications are still unclear. Hjort will continue to monitor the situation closely. As it develops, our experts will continue to be available at all times to handle any legal concerns or questions that may arise.

 

Last updated: 18. March 2020