Nov. 23 – The European Commission last week adopted a proposal that would limit truck drivers’ working time to an average of 48 hours per week. The commission hopes this move will resolve issues that have caused trucker strikes over the last few years, but some British truckers aren’t too happy about it.
The European Working Time Directive, which was adopted in 1993, excluded transport workers such as truck drivers. The omission led to several protests and shutdowns from truck drivers, especially in France. The most recent was a Europe-wide shutdown in early September, when UK truck drivers arriving at major French ferry ports were stopped at entrance points and handed leaflets with the slogan “fatigue kills.” The most serious disruption was in France, but truckers used blockades, slowdowns, rallies and leaflet campaigns all over Europe.
Talks between trucking representatives and the commission broke down in late September, but the commission went ahead with its work to revise the rules to include transport workers. The new proposal was announced last Wednesday.
“This is an important day for the millions of workers who were excluded from the original directive,” said Employment and social Affairs Commissioner Padraig Flynn.
The new draft directive on mobile workers in road transport defines working time more broadly. Instead of just driving, it now includes loading and unloading, as well as cleaning, maintenance and security inspections. Truck drivers are limited to 48 hours maximum averaged over a four-month period. The maximum weekly working time is 60 hours. Drivers must take a break of at least 30 minutes after six hours work and at least 45 minutes after nine hours. The rules call for a daily rest of at least 11 hours, 35 hours weekly. Night workers can only work eight hours “per day.”
Britain’s BBC reported that not all truckers are happy about the change. Some accuse European Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock of “bowing to bully-boy tactics” from their European counterparts.
The Road Haulage Association says the ruling will do nothing to improve safety or conditions, but commissioners point to statistics that suggest that fatigue is a factor in 2,000 highway deaths in Europe each year. RHA spokesman Dan Hodges says the ruling will burden truckers with red tape, and points out that drivers are already prevented from driving more than nine hours a day.