Back to Basics to defeat COVID-19 is the way Forward: New Mobility Package announced

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COVID-19 will only be defeated by doing the simple things, according to Aidan Flynn, General Manager at the Freight Transport Association Ireland (FTAI) and while the European Union has agreed a new Mobility Package, operators have time to prepare.

COVID 19 – Getting Back to the Basics! 

Recent days have reaffirmed that we must remain vigilant when it comes to managing the risk posed by COVID-19. The counties of Laois, Offaly and Kildare have had restrictions put back in place that hinders movement and most importantly has a negative impact on the local economies. The well-publicised issues stem from outbreaks in a number of factories. These outbreaks can happen anywhere at any time. Indeed, the acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn was at pains to highlight that “there’s no blame to be attached to either acquiring or transmitting this diseaseHe went on to say that: “the message around physical distancing was getting lost”. This is a stark reminder to all (if needed!) that manging the COVID-19 risk is a collective responsibility. The coronavirus is a sinister and deathly virus that is refusing to go quietly. It is a stealth virus at times present without symptoms spreading freely (the recent case of 3 children in a Navan Childcare facility is a prime example of this).

As the Taoiseach quoted the late great John Hume at his public address to the nation on Friday the 7 August ‘Solidarity is Strength’. We are all in this together for as long as it takes. It is manageable and we must double down on our efforts to minimise the risk of spreading the virus. The euphoria of being released from lockdown followed by our ability to travel the country and enjoy our staycation is creating a fuzziness a sense of delusion that things are back to normal. They are not and will not be for some time! We must get back to the basics and it is no harm in being reminded to wash our Hands; practice good cough etiquette and physical distancing (and where physical distancing is not possible in work settings to wear a mask correctly). We need to remember the basics and continue to practice them at home and at work.

The Health & Safety Authority has resources available on its website – https://www.hsa.ie/eng/topics/covid-19/covid-19_coronavirus.htm with checklists and an abundance of information and training materials to be used. FTA Ireland has developed training programmes and advisory guidance for the freight distribution, passenger transport and logistics sector – https://www.ftai.ie/covid-19-driver-induction-training.

All employees must receive training from their employer on the risk of COVID-19. The terminology of the ‘Back to Work’ protocol possibly confused people into thinking that because their business did not close (had been open and operation during the lockdown) they did not need to receive training. This is incorrect, as all employers have a duty to their staff clients and visitors to provide comprehensive training and information on an ongoing basis. More importantly auditing of the COVID-19 risk management practices and implementation of new hygiene policies and procedures must be carried out periodically. This is the only way confidence can be built that the workforce and those visiting it are protected. This message must be conveyed from the authorities particularly the Health & Safety Authority who are charged with auditing workplace compliance in a more sustained clear manner through all means possible. It is laudable that the authorities understand the difficulties we all face during this crisis and want to work in a proactive manner to encourage changing practices and compliance, however there comes a time where the carrot approach must be supported by the stick for the greater good. If businesses are to open and stay open unfortunately it requires a more visible and public inspection campaign to reinforce that this is being taken very seriously by the regulatory bodies. This message will be easily transferable to industry and create the necessary awareness that facilitates a more proactive approach to COVID-19 risk management in the workplace.

Questions each employer should answer:

  1. Have you provided COVID-19 induction training for all your staff?
  2. Have you appointed a COVID-19 Worker Representative?
  3. Have you carried our a COVID-19 risk assessment and implemented control measures?
  4. Action taken on physical distancing
  5. Reconfigured work practices
  6. Provided PPE and guidance on cough etiquette, hand washing and physical distancing
  7. Communicated effectively with contractors and visitors’ new processes and practices.
  8. Are you auditing and documenting compliance with the new policy and procedures?

Collective responsibility and a focus on the basics is required by all. It is difficult and will have consequences on productivity and efficiencies, but changes must be made in line with public health advice if we are to successfully navigate through the choppy waters, we find ourselves in.

MOBILTY PACKAGE CHANGES

The European Union (EU) Regulations on Operator Licensing, Access to the Market, Drivers’ Hours and Tachographs have been revised. A new piece of legislation harmonising administrative requirements relating to local minimum wages for international drivers will be adopted. The revised regulations and the new Directive were published in the Official Journal of the EU on 31 July 2020.

Summary of changes that become applicable on 20 August 2020.

Driving and rest timeThe revised driving and rest time regulation was published in the Official Journal of the EU. Entry into force and applicability: 20 August 2020

  • Exemption for certain vehicles under 7.5 tonne used for own-account transport – The existing exemption for “vehicles or combinations of vehicles with a maximum permissible mass not exceeding 7.5t used for carrying materials, equipment or machinery for the driver’s use in the course of his work” is extended to include vehicles “delivering goods produced on a craft basis where the transport is not carried out for hire or reward”.  This exemption continues to include a 100km radius limit.
  • Multi-manning and breaks – A driver engaged in multi-manning may take a break of 45 minutes in a vehicle driven by another driver provided that the driver taking the break is not involved in assisting the driver driving the vehicle.
  • Return home’ rule – The employer must organise the work in such a way that drivers are able to return to the company’s operational centre where the driver is normally based or to the place of residence of the driver once in every 4-week period.
  • Two reduced weekly rest periods in a row (international drivers only) – Drivers engaged in international transport will have the possibility to take 2 reduced weekly rest periods in a row in every 4-week period provided that the driver in any 4 consecutive weeks takes at least four weekly rest periods, of which at least 2 shall be regular weekly rest periods.
  • Weekly rest in the cab – The revised regulation clarifies and confirms a recent decision of the European Court of Justice regarding taking regular weekly rest in the cab of a vehicle.  A driver cannot take a weekly rest or any weekly rest period longer than 45 hours in the vehicle. Accommodation must be provided at the cost of the employer.
  • Ferry rule – possibility to interrupt a reduced and regular weekly rest periods – As per current regulations, where a driver accompanies a vehicle which is transported by ferry or train and takes a regular daily rest period, that period may be interrupted twice by other activities not exceeding 1 hour in total (access to bunk or couchette is a pre-requisite).

o   The revised rules allow the interruption to also be applicable to reduced weekly rest periods, under the same conditions:

  • Rest period may only be interrupted twice.
  • The interruption cannot exceed one hour in total.
  • The driver must have access to a, bunk or couchette, or, with the amendment, a sleeper cabin
  • Exceed driving time to reach home – It will be possible to exceed daily and weekly driving time by one hour in exceptional circumstances to reach the operational centre or the driver’s place of residence, provided road safety is not jeopardised.

Centralised information about safe and secure truck parking areas

The European Commission will launch a public website centralising information about safe and secure truck parking areas. Information displayed on this website should make it easier for hauliers operating in the EU to find parking areas and compare their level of security and comfort.

  • The website will only display those parking areas that will have been audited and deemed to comply with a common standard
  • The standard will be based on the bronze / silver / gold classification set up in a 2009 study.

The FTA Ireland has a comprehensive briefing note on the Mobility Package changes available for members detailing the timeline for introduction of other changes including the Timeline for tachograph retrofitting; Operator Licence changes; Minimum Wage Changes; Cabotage Changes; Light Commercial Vehicles and operator licencing.