Working time and social conditions in the road transport sector

19 octobre 2021 Pierre Perrin-Monlouis

Explanatory note

(see also SPEECH/05/211 by vice-president Barrot for today’s debate in the European Parliament – EMBARGO on the speech : Monday 11 April at 7.15 pm)

The European Commission is working intensively to ensure that European rules regulate working time in the road transport sector. As recently as 23 March, new rules came into force which create new social rights for EU truck drivers. These rules are an example of how the EU can take action to avoid unfair competition in the internal market.

The rules that entered into force on 23 March (OJ L 80 of 23.3.2002) impose an average of a 48 hours working week over a period of four months. Before 23 March, some Member States had no rules at all on this issue. Some had higher standards. The new legislation encourages those Member States which have stricter working time regulations to maintain their norms, and EU legislation should not be used as an excuse to diminish established rights.

The new working time rules guarantee a level playing field in terms of competition between transport companies. They will avoid that companies put the health of truck drivers at risk and improve road safety.

In parallel, the Commission is working on legislation to define driving times and rest periods and improve their enforcement. This draft legislation will be debated tonight at the European Parliament in a second reading. The Commission’s proposals on the basic rules date from 12 October 2001 (IP/01/1430 – doc COM (2001)573) and on the enforcement of those rules from 21 October 2003 ( IP/03/1436 – doc COM(2003) 628). Parliament’s first reading of these proposals took place on 14 January 2003 and 20 April 2004 respectively, and the Council adopted a common position on both on 9 December 2004.

Current legislation on driving times and rest periods has been put in place 20 years ago, and is too complex to apply effectively. The Commission’s 2001 proposal simplifies existing rules by limiting possible exemptions and repealing complex provisions on compensation for reduced rest periods. The Commission’s proposal makes employers themselves liable for infringements. It allows Member State authorities to impound any vehicle in serious breach of the rules. It also states that infringements committed in one Member State can be sanctioned in another Member State. Finally, the proposed legislation steps up the number of controls on the roads and with transport operators.

The current debate proposes to fix weekly driving time at a maximum of 56 hours. This is major progress as current rules can allow up to 65 and even 74 hours of driving time. The current debate proposes to fix daily rest times at a minimum of 11 or 12 hours (respectively Council’s common position and EP’s proposed amendment). The Commission proposes to limit the possibility to fragment this daily rest period to a maximum of two sections.

Weekly rest time after a maximum of 6 days should contain a minimum of 45 consecutive hours. There exists a possibility of a reduced weekly rest time of 24 hours. For the first time, however, it is proposed to impose at least one rest time of 45 hours every two consecutive weeks.

The above debate is obviously linked to the introduction of the digital tachograph. It is in everybody’s interest to introduce the new equipment as soon as possible, i.e. 5 May 2005 for the digital tachograph card issue and 5 August 2005 for the installation of the digital tachograph on all new heavy commercial vehicles. The Commission opposes any change to these foreseen dates. All major vehicle manufacturers have signed contracts with digital tachograph manufacturers and will complete the tests on time. Training programmes for drivers and transport operators are in place. Member States have committed themselves to issue cards by 5 May 2005. The digital tachograph is essential for road safety and enforcement of social rules in the road transport sector.

Apart from effective enforcement of working time rules and the issue of drivers’ rest periods, the debate between Council and Euorpean Parliament also includes the issue of the possible extension of the scope of legislation to commercial vehicles below 3.5 tonnes.

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