European social rules for road transport
Brussels, Belgium – This morning the European Parliament adopted the agreement on the draft European legislation to improve driving times and rest periods for professional drivers and step up checks on lorries. Drivers will have at least two full days off every two weeks and a longer rest period each day. These new rules clarify the existing rules and bring the practices of the different EU Member States closer together. They also contribute to road safety. “Opening up new markets has to go hand in hand with rules that apply to everyone to ensure fair working conditions. These European social rules create new rights for workers and protect against social dumping”, said Jacques Barrot, Commission Vice-President responsible for transport.
There is already a whole raft of European social legislation covering the various modes of transport. In recent years, for example, Europe has strengthened the maritime professions by adopting rules on training and working conditions. The Commission’s proposals on certification of engine drivers and aircraft cabin crew are also aimed at harmonising rules, especially the social rules, governing these occupations.
The agreement on working time in road transport, adopted by a qualified majority, was a big step forward. This sector-specific Directive (2002/15/EC) has been in force since 23 March 2005. It fixes the maximum weekly working time at 60 hours and the average weekly working time at 48 hours over a four-month reference period.
The new legislation adopted today complements the working time legislation and strengthens the social rules in the road transport sector. Member States will still be free to apply even stricter rules in the case of road transport carried out entirely within their own territory, but they will not be allowed to fall short of the minimum rules laid down in the European legislation. This amounts to a major social advance in certain countries and will serve to prevent social dumping.
The package brings in an obligatory minimum daily rest of 9 hours for drivers (instead of the present 8 hours) and an obligatory rest of at least 45 consecutive hours every two weeks. This “weekend off” for professional drivers, in the form of a real rest for two full days at least every fortnight, is unknown in most Member States. It is a substantial innovation benefiting the well-being of drivers and their families and the safety of all.
Another important measure is the reduction of maximum driving time for professional drivers. At present they can drive for up to 74 hours a week. When this instrument comes into force, no professional driver in Europe will be allowed to drive for more than 56 hours a week. Several Member States will have to review their legislation to incorporate this social advance. It complements the legislation already in force since 23 March that limits the working time for professional drivers to an average of 48 hours a week over a four-month period.
The draft legislation provides that it will be the drivers’ employers (sharing liability with the shippers) and no longer drivers themselves who will be held responsible in the case of infringement. The fault will no longer lie with the hard-pressed drivers. All the players involved will have to bear their share of the responsibility.
One Member State will be able to penalise infringements committed in another Member State. This extraterritoriality of penalties and prosecutions is a major innovation. With the introduction of the more accurate and tamper-proof digital tachograph, it will be possible for inspectors to check drivers’ driving times over the previous 28 days and to take the vehicle off the road immediately in the case of a serious infringement.
These new rules will be accompanied by a gradual increase in the number of checks from 1% to 3% of days worked by drivers as well as a tripling of the number of operations carried out jointly by Member States. The checks should serve to verify that the social rules are being applied and enable action against ‘cowboys’ in the industry who put their drivers and European citizens at risk. They are a means of ensuring fair competition in Europe.
To this end, besides the minimum requirements as regards training and equipment, an electronic information exchange system will be set up to facilitate cooperation between the national authorities responsible for carrying out the checks.
It is expected that the Council will shortly approve this new legislative package following the agreement reached with the European Parliament on 6 December 2005.