Truckers cut through red tape on road to 1992

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Interstate commerce is something Americans take for granted. Not Jim Young. His family business in Spartanburg, S.C., is textile machines. Mr. Young arrived in Britain this month to set up operations in Manchester. Partly, he says, this is to augment normal business, which is brisk now that the cheap dollar is boosting European sales.

But since Young's textile machines are warehoused in Britain and West Germany and shipped throughout Europe, the streamlining of a single market can't come too soon.

``When we sell in France, Spain, or Denmark we have border delays,'' he says. ``If we can reduce the border costs, that's a plus.''

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Border delays are the bane of business in the European market right now. A European Community (EC) study figures that up to $1 billion a year is lost just in these delays.

The EC recently compared a 750-mile trip within Britain with a 750-mile trip from London to Milan. Inside Britain the trip took 36 hours. From London to Milan (excluding time lost for the Channel crossing) it took 58 hours. Moreover, because of ``cabotage'' rules aimed at protecting national trucking companies, the driver would have to return from Milan empty or partly loaded.

Such hassles, the EC estimates, cause companies simply to forego Common Market commerce, meaning up to $19 billion in trade is being lost. Not surprisingly, EC economists estimate that only companies that can drum up quite sizable Common Market business find it worthwhile to bother.

But by 1992, Europeans and anyone else doing business within the 12 nations of the EC will have relief. Already, a single, two-page form has replaced the 35-plus pages of documentation that were required by truckers at each border. By year's end, well organized companies will even be able to transfer information about truck contents between computers and send their loads zipping right past border posts.

If all goes according to plan, cabotage will be phased out by 1992. Truckers anywhere will be able to haul in the Common Market. Time spent trucking between London and Milan and other European points should drop dramatically. American-style interstate commerce will have finally arrived.

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