Change to EU driving and rest time rules for coach drivers engaged on tourism-related work has come closer after the European Parliament Transport and Tourism Committee voted to support a collection of proposed amendments.
The draft legislation adopted by the Committee is described by the International Road Transport Union (IRU) as a “compromise package.” 31 members voted in favour and five against, with one abstention.
There remains no guarantee that any of the amendments will eventually be adopted in the UK, although calls for change here have been made by multiple trade bodies representing the coach industry.
Following Committee approval, the next stage is a vote in the European Parliament plenary session of 11-14 December. Once positions are adopted by both the European Parliament and the European Council, “talks on the final shape of the law can start,” the former says.
IRU Director of EU Advocacy Raluca Marian believes that revision work needs to be concluded “this year,” to allow for introduction of the new approach in 2024.
Adds Ms Marian: “It is now in the hands of the plenary, and later in the official trilogue with the Council, to ensure that coach tourism drivers are given the choice to organise their breaks based on the nature of the work and the needs of their passengers, prioritising safety above all else.”
The proposed changes approved by the Transport and Tourism Committee are:
- Relaxation of the rule on splitting a 45-minute break from driving, to allow two periods of at least 15 minutes each
- On a journey of six days or longer, allowing a coach tourism driver on one occasion to extend their working day by one hour and reclaim that time afterwards, subject to a seven-hour maximum daily driving limit
- Utilise the 12-day dispensation on national tours, in addition to the current provision for international trips.
No changes are proposed to breaks or rest periods, or to maximum driving times. The European Council describes the planned amendments as being “motivated by characteristics of [occasional passenger transport services] which are different from passenger line service and freight carriage by road.”
On expansion of the 12-day rule to national services – also seen as key for the UK by some operators – the Council adds that the current position limiting such a dispensation to international services “has a negative impact in terms of undistorted and fair competition, especially between small and medium enterprises.”
Ms Marian claims that the current rules “harm” coach drivers’ wellbeing and hold back the tourism sector. However, the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) has challenged the proposed changes, and staged a rally in Brussels protesting them.
ETF says that extension of working day length under certain conditions “is unprecedented in the professional world and risks compromising safety and exacerbating driver shortages.” It adds that expanding scope of the 12-day rule could increase the accident risk.
Instead of “diluting working conditions,” ETF wants efforts to be focused on making the coach driver position more attractive and sustainable.
The Federation says that it is preparing “a widespread information campaign across various EU member states” to educate the public there on “potential dangers of the proposed regulation changes.” That work will develop over the coming weeks.
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