French controls of non-EU carriers

Do you know that as a non-European transport company you need an ECMT or a bilateral authorization?

The French authorities are carrying out a control campaign regarding the conformity of non-European transport companies.

In view of the large number of roadside checks carried out in France on transport companies based in non-EU countries, I would like to draw your attention to the question of the documents required to carry out transport operations.

What about the ECMT licence?

Since 01/01/2023, transport companies holding an ECMT carnet and carrying out non-bilateral international transport to or from France must draw up a declaration of posting for each transport, mentioning for each of them the principal and specifying the place of loading or unloading (as the case may be) as the place of service in France (article 2 of the modified decree 2022-104)1.

ECMT licences are multilateral licences, issued by the ITF/ECMT, for the international transport of goods by road for hire or reward by transport companies established in an ECMT Member country, on the basis of a quota system, the transport being carried out : – between ECMT Member countries; and in transit through the territory of one or more ECMT Member countries by vehicles registered in an ECMT Member country.

As far as ECMT documents are concerned, agreements between Ministers of Transport each year allow third countries to issue a limited number of carnets to their hauliers for international transport within the EU or for bilateral transport.

These transports are limited, and require in particular the return to the country of establishment after the completion of 3 international transports.

In this context, the logbook which must mention all the journeys (empty or loaded) must be on board the vehicle.

USE of the ECMT licence

A licence can only be used by one vehicle at a time. It must be carried on board the vehicle between the loading (as soon as the vehicle is loaded) and unloading (as soon as the vehicle is unloaded) points for a laden trip or for the complete unladen trip that precedes or follows a laden trip. The country of loading or unloading of the vehicle may be different from the country of origin or destination of the goods loaded. An ECMT licence does not allow cabotage.

What about a bilateral licence?

Bilateral licences, which are also issued by the country of establishment on the basis of a quota issued by the host country (e.g. France), only allow bilateral transport from or to the country of establishment and from or to the host country.

In this context, the document which can be issued “per transport operation/per document” or “for a specific period” (valid for a certain period: 1 month, 1 year…) must be carried on board the vehicle.

The absence of documents on board is sanctioned.

The realization of an internal transport (departure and arrival in the same host country) is sanctioned as “illegal cabotage” and not “irregular cabotage”, as it is the case for a European company that does not respect the limits set by the regulation 1072/2009.

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Which transports are exempted?

In order to facilitate international transport and to achieve a better use of vehicles, the following categories of transport are exempted from multilateral and bilateral transport authorizations:

1) The transport of goods by motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), including trailers, not exceeding 3.5 tons.

 2) The transport of goods on an occasional basis, to or from airports, in cases where services are diverted.

3) Transportation of damaged or broken-down vehicles and the movement of recovery vehicles.

4) Empty runs of a freight vehicle sent to replace a broken-down vehicle in another country, as well as the return run, after repair, of the broken down vehicle.

 5) Transport of livestock in vehicles permanently built or equipped for the transport of livestock and recognized as such by the authorities of the member countries concerned.

 (6) Carriage of spare parts and provisions for sea-going vessels and aircraft.

 7) Transportation of medical supplies and equipment needed in case of emergency, especially in response to natural disasters and humanitarian needs.

 8) Transportation for non-commercial purposes of works and objects of art for fairs and exhibitions.

9) Non-commercial transportation of goods, props and animals to and from theatrical, musical, cinematographic, sports or circus performances, fairs or festivals, as well as those intended for radio recordings or film or television production.

10) Transport of goods for own account.

11) Funeral transport.

12) Postal transport as part of a public service.

 13) Transfer of newly acquired vehicles without load to the place of their final destination.

Study case: transport of goods between Serbia (country of establishment) and the United Kingdom (bilateral transport), and the French control body wants to sanction them for not having an authorization. 

Answer: For this type of transport, Serbian vehicles are not obliged to have a bilateral permit or an ECMT permit because it is a transport between two third countries (NON-EU), and the transit traffic through France is liberalized.

[1] Décret n° 2022-104 du 1er février 2022 relatif aux entreprises de transport terrestre détachant des salariés roulants ou navigants sur le territoire national – Légifrance (

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