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Excessive Border Delays Hurt Truck Drivers

Published: Sat 21 Oct 2006 12:51 AM
Excessive Border Delays Hurt Professional Truck Drivers, Overall Economy, Says UN Report
New York, Oct 20 2006 1:00PM
Excessive border delays, inefficient or corrupt border officials and drivers’ vulnerability to sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS put the international road transport sector at risk and without worldwide governmental action the problems will intensify, according to a new report by the United Nations labour agency released today.
In many cases, poor infrastructure, inefficient organization of official procedures including visas and unprofessional border officials not only hurt the living and working conditions of international drivers at border crossings worldwide but also have negative economic impacts, the International Labour Organization (ILO) study says.
“Governments bear the primary responsibility to address the majority of the problems outlined in this report,” it states in its conclusions. “They play the key role in the fight against corruption and in ensuring good governance and efficient and effective border management. They should develop programmes to increase the social status and recognition of border control personnel.
The study calls on governments to work together to implement harmonized, simplified border policies and procedures. “Without global and subordinate regional approaches by governments to simplify, coordinate and harmonize procedures, the negative social and economic impact of current border conditions across the globe will continue to intensify, it says.
The report, Labour and social issues arising from problems of cross-border mobility of international drivers in the road transport sector, has been prepared for a tripartite meeting in Geneva next week, organized by ILO with employers’ and workers’ groups.
Citing some of the problems, it noted that while the official time to obtain a visa for the European Union (EU) was on average four days in 2005, actual time for professional drivers of buses and trucks from countries not party to the European Schengen common policy agreement on temporary entry, such as Kazakhstan, Morocco, Ukraine and Turkey, ranged from 1.5 days for a Turkish driver to 31.5 days for a Kazakh driver.
In Africa, customs procedures are proving to be a significant bottleneck. For example, the report says that the average customs transaction on the continent involved 20-30 different parties, 40 documents and 200 data elements, 30 of which were repeated at least 30 times. According to a 2005 International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) survey on working conditions among truck drivers from seven central African countries, all drivers experienced prolonged waiting at the border crossings ranging from two to five days.
Unofficial payments and harassment represent a major issue for drivers, employers, governments and even consumers, the report says. Drivers and road transport companies absorb the main expenditure, but governments lose duties on goods, and costs are often passed on throughout the supply chain to other businesses and ultimately the consumer.
“The road transport sector needs an influx of young men and women into the industry to maintain its sustainability and to keep pace with the growing demand for trade via road transport,” ILO transport expert Marios Meletiou said. “We have to make sure that the living and working conditions of international drivers are constantly improving and that the sector continues to offer attractive employment opportunities for workers across the world.
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