Wanted: Fairer rules for truck drivers and hauliers

The European Council agrees its position on the highly contested reform

The European Council presented its general approach on a key reform of the road transport sector, which includes drivers' working conditions, special posting rules for drivers in international transport, access to the haulage market, and improved enforcement. The reform is designed to ensure a balance between adequate working conditions for drivers and the freedom to provide cross-border services for operators, the Council said in its press release. It will also provide clarity for the sector and put an end to divergent national interpretations of rules.

The proposals are part of the first mobility package, presented by the Commission in June 2017. The texts agreed today are the Council's position for negotiations with the European Parliament with a view to reaching agreement on the final texts.

"Today's agreement is about providing fairer rules for drivers and transport companies, and greater efficiency for national control authorities," said Austrian Minister for Transport Norbert Hofer, President of the Council. "Professional drivers will benefit from better working conditions, and companies operating across different member states gain from greater legal certainty and less red tape. Reaching an agreement on these proposals was a top priority for the Austrian presidency", Hofer added.

One key element for improving enforcement according to the Council is having a reliable way to register when and where the truck has crossed a border and to localise loading and unloading activities. The second version of the smart tachograph will do all this automatically. All vehicles carrying out international transport operations would have to be fitted with this device by the end of 2024. With regard to cabotage (transport companies' operations carried out within a national market outside their own country), the Council is maintaining the current rule allowing a maximum 3 operations in 7 days. The improved enforcement measures should make monitoring of compliance more efficient and effective. To prevent systematic cabotage, a 'cooling off' period of 5 days will be introduced before further cabotage operations can be carried out in the same country with the same vehicle. The haulier would have to organise the drivers' work schedules in such a way that they are able to return home at least every four weeks - or, if the driver chooses to take two reduced weekly rests, after three weeks on the road. To ensure adequate working conditions for drivers, the regular weekly rest must be spent outside the cabin, the Council approach suggests.

The reform clarifies how professional drivers will benefit from the principle of the same pay for the same work at the same place, according to the Council position. The general rule would be that if an operation is organised in such a way that the link between the driver's work and the country of establishment remains intact, the driver should be excluded from posting rules. This means that bilateral transport operations are explicitly excluded. On the way to the destination country and on the way back, one additional activity of loading/unloading is permitted in both directions without falling under the posting regime, or zero on the way out and up to two on the way back. Transit is also excluded. For all other types of operations, including cabotage, the full posting regime would apply from the first day of the operation.


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