Wednesday, June 16, 2010

EU Parliament Imposes Freight Truck Drivers Working Hours

Self Employed to be Regulated Despite Intense Opposition
Shipping News Feature

UK – EUROPE – Not for the first time legislation before the European Parliament has come in for severe criticism from representatives of the British freight trucking community – who were promptly ignored. The Road Haulage Association have been scathing in their attack on what they consider “a most ill considered piece of legislation” even before the vote today which affirmed that self employed drivers were subject to the regulations of the Road Transport Directive (RTD).

Originally self employed drivers were exempt from the regulations until March last year but then the difficulties and impracticalities, not to mention the moral and social issues inherent in ordering the working practices of the self employed began the usual morass of red tape. The Commission agreed there was no precedent for including self employed workers in what is basically allowable in a contract of employment (Directive 2002/15/EC covers driving working hours plus ancillary activities including loading/unloading, maintenance and administrative formalities) but argued that some drivers were only employed on one contract and therefore unable to work elsewhere making them effectively employed. This is similar to the definition traditionally employed by UK Departments of Work and Pensions.

Drivers who are accepted as self employed have been still subject to standard drivers hours of service with regard to actual driving times, but exempt from the working time directive, The UK Government have argued strongly against further imposition of the regulations stating in the EU Parliament that to impose the Directive would “heap even more red tape and cost on the industry”.

Despite this opposition a majority of MEP’s today accepted the judgement of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee who backed the change in April by confirming the original draft legislation, this despite the Commissions arguments. The vote was passed at 368 for, 301 against and 8 abstentions with the argument that there were overriding road safety, health and safety and fair competition concerns. Objectors commented that this was a precedent in terms of legislating on self employed workers and will be seen as a move diametrically opposed to the views and aspirations of the new UK coalition government.

Before the vote RHA director of policy Jack Semple commented:

“The RTD has been a mess since its inception. It is a confused mixture of road safety and social legislation which creates a second regulation to EU 561/2006 on HGV (and coach) drivers’ hours. It adds further complexity to drivers; and vehicle operators have to keep two separate sets of records on working time. It also creates a bizarre patchwork of reluctant, half-hearted or disinterested enforcement, made worse by the fact that (unlike 561/2006) one member state cannot enforce the regulation on visiting hauliers from another member state.

“Road transport is one of very few sectors of working time where there is no opt-out – and yet, it was already subject to detailed rules on the hours that could be worked! The confusions and contradictions inherent in this damaging directive were amply demonstrated by the debate in the Parliament yesterday. As one MEP suggested, the directive is a failure of EU policy-making. In the current climate, the EU needs to follow the course set by the new Coalition government in the UK and eliminate pointless regulatory complexity and cost. A good place to start would be the bizarre two sets of rules on working time in road transport.

“The RHA calls for the establishment of a single set of rules governing the work of HGV drivers in the road transport sector, with a common understanding of what the rules mean in all member states and a harmonised set of enforcement standards.”