Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Eighth Report



18. DRIVERS OF HEAVY VEHICLES

 

 

(22856)

12934/01

Draft Regulation on the harmonisation of certain social legislation relating to road transport.

Legal base:

Article 71 EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting

   

Department:

Transport

Basis of consideration:

Minister's letter of 30 July 2002

Previous Committee Report:

HC 152-xviii (2001-02), paragraph 3 (6 February 2002)

To be discussed in Council:

Not known

Committee's assessment:

Legally and politically important

Committee's decision:

Cleared

 

 

Background

    1. The current Regulation (Council Regulation (EEC) No.3820/85) concerning the driving and rest times of drivers of heavy vehicles has been in force since 1985. The legislation was supposed to provide "a common set of Community rules for maximum daily and fortnightly driving times as well as daily and weekly minimum rest periods for all drivers of road haulage and passenger transport vehicles, subject to specified exceptions and derogations." However, according to the Commission, there have been difficulties in interpreting and applying the Regulation.
    2. The document

    3. The draft Regulation seeks to clarify and simplify the legislation by repealing and replacing the current Regulation. Although the draft Regulation proposes some small changes to total driving times and rest periods, the changes do not materially change the main limits on driving and rest periods.
    4. When we considered this document on 6 February 2002 we said that it was relevant to the forthcoming debate in European Standing Committee A on European Transport policy, which took place on 13 March 2002[39]. We also asked the Minister for Transport (Mr John Spellar) to let us know of the outcome of his Department's consultations. He has now written to us about the outcome.
    5. Results of the consultations

    6. The Minister tells us that the employers and the unions hold conflicting views on most of the proposed changes. The employers accept that the present rules are complex. But they are concerned that the timing of the implementation of the new Regulation — January 2004 — will cause yet more confusion at a time of considerable change, that is with the introduction of digital tachographs in May 2004 and of working time limits in March 2005. They are also concerned about possible loss of operational flexibility through some of the changes, particularly to daily and weekly rest. In response, the unions say the changes do not go far enough.
    7. The main issues are;

    • removal of 15 minute split breaks. An anomaly in the current system of a splitable 45 minute break in a 4.5 hour driving period can result in a driving period of nine hours with only one 15 minute break. The employers cite their concern about loss of flexibility; the unions wish to abolish the present split break. The Government thinks a reasonable solution is a proposal that would allow a maximum of 7.5 hours driving with a 30 minute break after three hours;

    • removal of split daily rest. The proposal is to remove the provision allowing the daily rest period of 12 hours to be split into periods of not less than one hour provided the last period is at least eight hours. The employers value this provision because it is commonly used in the haulage industry while drivers wait for loading or unloading of their vehicles and by the coach industry for their commuter service drivers. The unions say the rule is difficult to enforce and in practice means in effect only an eight hour rest. The Government intends to support a 9+3 hour split or some equally enforceable and sensible variation;

    • reduced weekly rest. Presently the normal weekly rest requirement of 45 consecutive hours can, with later compensation, be reduced. But the compensations are difficult to enforce. The industry sees several problems with complete abolition of the reduced weekly rest provision and the Government intends to support a compromise allowing for reduced rest of 24 hours provided that every 13 days a full 45 hour rest is taken;

    • 12 day rule. The coach tour industry values the 12 day rule allowing drivers to postpone their weekly rest until the end of the twelfth day rather than having it after six days. They rely heavily on the provision for seven-day and other international tours. The unions strongly support revocation on safety grounds. The Government notes wide support for revocation and that there is no similar provision for heavy goods vehicle drivers;

    • other issues. The Government intends to seek national derogations for 10-17 seat minibuses operated by the voluntary sector and for specialised breakdown vehicles operating beyond a 50 km radius from base and to seek harmonisation of definitions in this regulation and those in the Working Time Directive.

      

Conclusion

    1. We are grateful to the Minister for the information he has provided and are now content to clear the document. But we ask the Minister to keep us informed of progress on the draft Regulation.

 


39   Official Report, European Standing Committee A, 13 March 2002, cols. 3-28. Back

 
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Prepared 11 November 2002