Bus & coach companies lobby for longer hours and less rest for drivers
Europe currently has rules about driving and rest time that cover road freight and passenger transport alike – the details are set out in Regulation 561/2006.
But bus and coach operators have never accepted the tight limits imposed by this regulation, although even with these present rules the number of bus and coach accidents are unacceptably high. Just one year after its adoption, in 2007, they convinced the European Parliament that more flexibility was needed in drivers’ schedules to make the sector more competitive (after all, low cost airlines were gaining ground fast in passenger transport). The operators even made it look as if it was the drivers themselves who wanted to scrap limits on working and driving time. As a result, in 2009, an exception in the rules was introduced, allowing international coach drivers to make a 12-day continuous drive with no day of rest! However, the ETF succeeded in imposing a series of strict conditions which made the 12-day derogation practically impossible to abuse.
Today, the story repeats itself. With the Mobility Package currently in the hands of the European Parliament, the bus and coach operators attack again. And what an attack it is! This time, the IRU – the European association for bus and coach operators – is asking for a 16-hour working day, longer driving periods and substantially reduced rest.
If we put together the European Commission proposal and the IRU’s demands, we will end up with the following ‘special’ drivers’ regime in passenger transport: 20 days of continuous driving with only 2 days off in between; a decrease in rest time periods from 6 to 4 days; and a 16-hour working day 8 times per month. The IRU also lobbies for the extension of the 12-day derogation to national transport by coach. So, in a mix of all this, bus and coach drivers will be increasingly exposed to fatigue and to higher accident risks. The IRU calls these proposals ‘customer-friendly’!
The ETF sees this matter the other way around: same customers would be better off travelling in safe and secure conditions. And the current rules barely guarantee that.
Thus, we in the ETF are ready to challenge these claims to their very core. We are getting ready to act! We’ll be spending the next couple of months touring schools, organisations with an interest in road and passenger safety, and the public at large. We’ll be drawing public attention over these changes in driving and rest time, and the risk they pose to driver and passenger safety. We’ll be having meetings with policy makers and law enforcers, and we’ll be having street actions.
Driver fatigue kills! Particularly if plans for a laxer driving and rest time regime are pushed ahead.