The EEC Treaty sought a common policy for inland transport, namely roads, rail and inland waterways, but not for maritime and air transport (Article 84 EEC, Article 100 TFEU). The concept of a common transport market was consequently limited at the outset to inland transport and more specifically, in light of the highly specific situation of railway and inland waterway undertakings, to road transport. However road haulage services represent by far the bulk of goods carriage in the European Community/Union. They, therefore, play a principal role in the good functioning of the single market by enabling the free movement of goods and persons. Thus, the common transport market had to be completed together with the single market for goods in 1992.
In addition to the integration of inland transport markets, European policy in this sector seeks to organise the various means of transport in accordance with "European rules", i.e. measures tending towards the approximation of the economic conditions and the structures of each mode of transport in the Member States. For many years, the European institutions concentrated upon harmonising road haulage rates, but achievements are thin on the ground. The aim in the railway sector was to improve the financial situation of railway companies, but the many provisions adopted with this aim in mind have, thus far, had little impact. By way of contrast, sea and air transport which only made their entrance onto the EC/EU stage in the middle of the 1970s, have seen spectacular progress recently, not only in the completion of the internal market in these sectors, but also of their European organisation.
A communication of the Commission entitled "The common transport policy - Sustainable mobility: perspectives for the future" provides a framework for the development of the transport policy [COM/1998/716]. The Commission identifies three priority areas for action, for which it lists the main measures designed to: improve the efficiency and competitiveness of European transport by: liberalising market access, establishing integrated transport systems and developing the trans-European network; establishing fair pricing on the basis of the marginal social cost and improving working conditions; and improving transport quality through targeted action on safety, primarily on air, maritime and road transport, and protection of the environment. Concerning in particular environment protection, the Commission believes that the introduction of a rational policy for achieving a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in the transport sector (accounting for 26% of total CO2 emissions in the Union in 1995) would make it possible to halve them by 2010 [COM/98/204, see also section 16.3.4]. To this end, the "Intelligent Energy - Europe" programme, which is part of the European Union’s Research and Innovation Programme ‘Horizon2020’ [Regulation 1291/2013, see section 18.4], supports initiatives relating to all energy aspects of transport, the diversification of fuels, such as through new developing and renewable energy sources, and the promotion of renewable fuels and energy efficiency in transport, including the preparation of legislative measures and their application.
The European framework for the deployment of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) in the field of road transport and for interfaces with other modes of transport aims to integrate telecommunications, electronics and information technologies with transport engineering in order to plan, design, operate, maintain and manage transport systems [Directive 2010/40, completed by Regulation 305/2013 and Decision 585/2014]. The application of information and communication technologies to the road transport sector and its interfaces with other modes of transport should make a significant contribution to improving environmental performance, efficiency, including energy efficiency, safety and security of road transport, including the transport of dangerous goods, public security and passenger and freight mobility.