For this month’s interview, I got a chance to speak to Søren Jansen, secretary general of the European association of national mobile crane and special transport trade bodies, ESTA. As a manager of crane sales businesses and of hirers, and now in his role with ESTA, he has found himself struggling against the trade barriers created by the mess of conflicting regulations on lifting and transport within both the EU and the US.

While every firm wants less taxation, or less red tape, the problems here aren’t of that nature. Instead, it seems like the politicians in each country cannot accept that we live in a European Union, and must harmonise our rules and regulations.

In France, for example, hirers are being told that they must carry out regular overload tests on their cranes. Once, maybe, these tests made sense, at least didn’t jeapordise safety: cranes were over-engineered, so could easily withstand the fatigue brought about by regularly being overloaded. Designers didn’t have access to today’s computer-based calculations or high tensile steels. Today, cranes are highly optimised for a balance between power, reach, and gross vehicle weight: the manufacturers warn their cranes should never be overloaded, not even for testing.

Faced with a national regulation that is directly at odds with the advice offered by the crane’s supplier, what should a fleet owner do? Break the law? Or potentially invalidate his warranty? Who should he trust to know what is good for his crane: a politician in Paris, Strasbourg, or Brussels; or an engineer in Zweibrucken, Wilhelmshaven, or Ehingen?

The same sort of absurdity rears its head when you try to take a crane between two EU member states. Rules on axle spacing and loadings differ, so as you cross borders with your perfectly optimised six axle AT, you’ll need to be ready to strip accessories and ballast, and provide fresh documentation in order to comply with a new set of regulations.

Political theorists state that nations draw their legitimacy from a hypothetical bargain with their citizens: individuals will give up some freedoms, in return for protection from a nasty and brutish world.

Part of the deal EU citizens have made is that they will give up local democratic accountability in return for an open market that offers cheaper imports, better export opportunities, and a wider choice about where to live and work. When it comes to building an open market in lifting and transport, the politicians aren’t keeping to their side of that deal.