Road Transport: Commission proposes to adapt rules on driving and rest times for drivers of occasional bus and coach services
The European Commission proposed to adopt EU rules on breaks and rest periods for drivers to better reflect the nature of occasional bus and coach services. Drivers in this sector have a different work rhythm than freight or regular passenger transport due to high seasonality and varying driving distances depending on passengers’ tourist activities.
The Commission is therefore proposing to allow bus and coach drivers providing such occasional services to distribute their breaks and rest periods more flexibly. In addition, the proposal aims to ensure that international and domestic occasional passenger transport operations are treated equally.
The proposal includes new rules regarding:
- Breaks: drivers will be allowed to split their breaks (of a minimum of 45 minutes for 4.5 hours of driving) into two periods of a minimum of 30 and 15 minutes, or into three periods of a minimum of 15 minutes each. This will help them to take breaks more flexibly and at convenient times. Current rules only allow drivers to split these 45-minute breaks into 15 minutes first and 30 minutes later (but not the other way around).
- Daily rest periods: drivers will be allowed to postpone the start of their daily rest period by one hour when the total daily driving period for that day does not exceed seven hours, or postpone it by two hours when the total daily driving period does not exceed five hours. These derogations will only be possible once during a trip of eight days or more. The new rules will not change the duration of the regular daily rest period, which remains at a minimum of 11 consecutive hours within 24 hours.
- Weekly rest periods: the rules for international occasional passenger transport services that take place solely within a single country will be aligned with the rules for international services, allowing drivers to postpone the weekly rest period for up to 12 consecutive days. This is already possible for international occasional passenger transport, to the disadvantage of operators of domestic services. The conditions to use this ‘12-day derogation’ remain the same: the driver has to take a regular weekly rest period before the trip (min. 45 hours) and two weekly rest periods after the trip.
The Commission’s proposal does not introduce any changes to the minimum duration of breaks or rest periods, nor to maximum driving times. It seeks to guarantee efficient and high-quality occasional passenger transport services and improve working conditions for drivers, and in particular to minimise their stress and fatigue.
The current framework (Regulation (EC) No 561/2006) applies to road transport operators and their drivers, regardless of whether they are involved in the carriage of passengers or goods; and regardless of whether, when carrying passengers, the transport is regular or occasional.
However, the occasional passenger transport sector has different characteristics compared to freight transport and regular passenger transport: it is characterised in particular by high seasonality (peaks in demand for passenger trips in certain seasons of the year) and by varying driving distances depending on the tourist activities undertaken by passengers.
This kind of service generally involves less driving time during the day than freight transport or in regular bus services involve. Drivers also usually sleep in hotels, and seldom drive at night. Moreover, they need to accommodate unplanned and impromptu passenger requests in terms of additional stops, changes of routes, or changes of schedule.
Drivers working in occasional passenger transport therefore have different working conditions to other drivers, which is why the Commission today proposed to adapt the rules on breaks and rest periods to their needs.
Furthermore, there is currently an uneven playing field between providers of occasional international and domestic (national) passenger transport services. That is because providers of occasional services taking place within one Member State only cannot use the 12-day derogation, which is limited to international services. For example, a long-distance tour within Germany is not eligible for the 12-day derogation, whereas a tour between Belgium and Luxembourg is eligible for that derogation, even though there may be no difference between those two operations in terms of distance and duration.
To ensure drivers’ rights are protected, the 12-day derogation can only be used in combination with mandatory weekly rests before and after the trip. It will also allow drivers to continue driving so that they may sleep at home, rather than forcing them to stop driving after six days and to stay in a hotel for a weekly rest.