The Road International Transport Union (IRU), founded in 1948, is the only international non-governmental organization representing the interests of road transport industry of 68 countries worldwide: in Europe, America, Asia and Africa. The IRU headquarters are located in Geneva (Switzerland). It has two Delegations set up in Brussels and Moscow, whose role is to coordinate and reinforce the IRU policies and practices respectively in the European Union and CIS Member States.
The main objective of the IRU is, for the sake of society as a whole, to safeguard the interests of the entire road transport industry worldwide as well as to contribute to the international cooperation in passenger and goods transport by road aimed at ensuring a harmonious and sustainable development of the world economy.
To achieve those goals the IRU, in cooperation and with the support of its national Member Associations carries out a wide range of projects on the following issues:
- encourages the improvement of the road transport industry by removing artificial barriers, by bringing into harmony technical standards, simplifying customs rules and regulations affecting the road transport industry;
- initiates training related to educational programs for transport operators and drivers mainly supported by the IRU Academy;
- promotes the proactive initiative of the IRU towards sustainable development in the road transport industry by optimizing energy saving, improving road safety and protecting the environment in particular;
- opposes all forms of discrimination against road transport both at national and international levels; advocates multimodal transport operations and complementarity with the other modes of transport.
Possessing a consultative status at the United Nations (UN) the IRU is mandated to maintain close cooperation with national governments and private businesses in many countries. The IRU is maintaining strong ties with a great number of international organizations, such as: World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, World Trade Organization, World Customs Organization, World Tourism Organization, European Conference of Ministers of Transport, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific Ocean.
For many years, the former Soviet Union and later Russia has been an active partner of the IRU. The European Union enlargement, on the one hand, and the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, on the other hand, could not but contribute to enhancing cooperation between Russia, the CIS and the IRU. This concerns not only the improvement of international goods transport under the TIR system but search for new forms and ways of co-operation.
It is our strong conviction that Russia owing to its geographic location, economic potential and manpower is destined in the coming 10-15 years to play a key role in creating a Euro-Asian economic zone from the Atlantic to the Pacific to safeguard the interests of people inhabiting that vast territory. Road transport industry due to its availability and efficiency will by all means play an extremely important role in the face of continuing integration processes.
In view of those challenges the IRU opened in Moscow in 1998 its Permanent Delegation in order to facilitate coordination of the IRU policies and practices within the framework of the CIS. The Moscow Delegation is committed to promote international cooperation in road transport industry pursuing the following:
- assist in elaborating legal framework governing road transport, taking into account future Russian membership in the WTO,
- analyze hurdles impeding the development of road transport in Russia, slowing its integration into the European transport system and prepare relevant recommendations to eliminate those hurdles for the Government of the Russian Federation,
- promote road transport integration within the CIS,
- disseminate and propagate in the international transport community concepts of transport corridors, i.e. in North-South and East-West directions. Passing through Russia, those corridors make Russia indispensable for transport taking into account its geostrategic role in Euro-Asian region,
- Introduce a wide network of training and education related projects through the IRU Academy and accredited institutions on the territory of the Russian Federation.
In respect of above objectives, Doctor I. Rounov, Head of the IRU Delegation in Moscow, is authorized to represent the interests of the IRU vis-а-vis the governmental and legislative bodies as well as public organizations and business associations of Russia and CIS Member-States.
After the Second World War, the striving of the European states towards economic integration and mutually beneficial trade resulted in elaborating the TIR system - Transports Internationaux Routiers. The TIR, as a customs transit system, for international road transport of Goods emerged in 1959. In this context the IRU has been entrusted with the management of the UN TIR Convention. The TIR system permits international movement of goods under customs seal from a point of departure to the final destination point without physical customs inspection in countries of transit.
The TIR system is based on a complex, well functioning guarantee scheme that under normal circumstances would allow state customs revenue at low cost for trade and transport operators.
Over the last few years, it was agreed that access to the system was to be strictly regulated by authorities, national associations and the IRU.
The IRU annually issues financial guarantees in the sum of $US500 mln. per day to facilitate export and import by road transportation. More than 25% of Russian export and import goods in value is carried under the TIR system.
The fact that Russia has dramatically increased road transport of goods in the late in the 90-ties, could not but tempt crime nationwide as well as beyond Russia to attempt to capitalize on the efficiency of the TIR.
Among the reasons to account for the upsurge in crime in road transport in the past 2-3 years, one should mention a weak legal basis, lack of solutions to customs related disputes among former Soviet republics and the obsolete technical base.
Criminals widely resorted to various shams in order to abuse freight transportation across Russian borders under TIR system, such as: fraudulent invoices, premeditated reduction in declared value of goods. More often than not, they practiced having issued TIR carnets to fraudulent or temporary (“one-day”) companies, which ceased to exist after their goods’ transport crossed the border. The number of such cases amount in Russia to nearly 2000 and millions of fraud.
Now it seems obvious that should the TIR system suspend its activities it might bring about disastrous effects leading to international road transport industry paralyzing trade and making financial markets collapse.
The IRU, along with the State Customs Committee of the RF, the Ministry of Transport of the RF and the Association of International Road Carriers (ASMAP) initiated a program of concrete measures to counter criminal onslaught and prevent the worst scenario.
Nevertheless, irrespective of some temporary improvement in the past 2 years since the relevant Memorandum and Agreements were signed, it has become evident that Russian and international crime still constitutes a serious threat to the survival of the TIR system.
They jeopardize the financial interests of the Russian State as well as those of bona fide transport operators involved in international goods transport.
Moreover recent experience in the Northwest region of Russia proves that some law enforcement organizations destined to combat the evil were completely passive confronted with this criminal situation. There have been numerous cases of professional negligence and lacking in initiative to prosecute crimes.
The IRU is determined to work in very close contact with its Russian partners, representatives of the governmental and non-governmental organizations, to seek to resolve crucial issues and elaborate coordinated and harmonized bilateral and multilateral actions at all levels, including high governmental instances.