However, the Ministers of Transport of the 28 Member States (the “Council of Ministers”) and the European Parliament have each reached their own positions on it. In December 2019 they will get together again to start negotiating the final deal.
DRIVING AND REST TIME (Regulation 561/2006)
Big wins for drivers
According to both positions:
- Drivers must regularly return home, at least once per month.
- They cannot be required to take weekly rest of 45 hours or more in the vehicle.
Big wins for society
- Less fatigue for bus, coach and truck drivers = safer roads, safer passengers
Risks and uncertainties
Two driving and rest time regimes?
- The European Parliament says the current rules, unchanged, should apply to all.
- The Council of Ministers, however, says the current regime should only apply to drivers working within their own country. As soon as they cross a border (international transport), their employer will be free to postpone the 45-hour rest by one additional week. In other words, international drivers can be made to drive three full weeks with only two days off in between.
Example of how the Council proposal would work in practice: a French driver engaged only in domestic transport would benefit from the current rules. But if he does 10 days of domestic transport and crosses a border on day 11, for a pick-up or delivery outside of France, his 45-hour rest may be postponed till the week after.
Apart from eroding drivers’ wellbeing …
- A dual driving time regime, as proposed by the Council, with different rules according to whether borders have been crossed, will harm enforcement. The driving and rest time regulation is among the most strictly enforced in road transport, across Europe. A dual driving time regime will mark the end of effective controls on driving, working and rest hours for bus, coach and truck drivers, and will strip the digital tachograph of most of its enforcement capacities.
- A dual driving time regime will reduce road safety. Tens of thousands of bus and truck drivers engaged in international transport will have to drive and work three weeks before being able to take a two-day rest. So much for the EU commitment for citizens’ wellbeing and for road safety!
How often will drivers actually be able to go home?
- Both the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament say every 4 weeks.
- According to both positions, the employer will be responsible for the costs of the driver’s repatriation. However, it only needs the driver to declare in writing that he or she spends the weekend in another location for the employer to be freed from any obligation to repatriate the driver and cover costs.
What is the definition of “home”?
- The Council of Ministers says it’s either the driver’s country of residence, or a country in which the company has an operational centre.
- The European Parliament says “home” can only be the driver’s country of residence.
Example of how the Council proposal would work in practice: a Romanian driver is employed by a company with an operational centre in the Slovak Republic. If the Council position is adopted, the Employer would be able to satisfy the law simply by sending the Romanian driver to the Slovak Republic once a month – which would entail less trouble and expense for the employer than sending the driver to Romania, his or her country of residence. Even better for the company, the driver would also bring the vehicle back to the base.
TO CONCLUDE: the driving and rest time regime, and the definition of “home” remain to be negotiated by the Council and the European Parliament.