International transport operators using light goods vehicles of over 2.5 tonnes GVW will be subject to European Union (EU) rules for driving and resting times, and their vehicles will need to be fitted with tachographs, according to a provisional EU deal on updated transport regulations.
Currently only heavy goods vehicle and coach drivers are required to use tachographs and respect strict limits on driving and resting times. The change marks the first time the rules will apply to some van drivers – something the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) has long called for. However the rules will only apply to larger vans, and only in international transport. The rules for national operators of vans will remain unchanged, subject only to general health and safety and working time rules that apply to all workers.
In a positive development, vehicle drivers covered by the rules will not be permitted to spend their weekly rest times in their vehicles. If they are away from home, employers will be expected to pay for accommodation. Sleeping in cabs, often near busy motorways, adds to driver fatigue in the sector – so this is a welcome change.
However, the updated rules also contain a new derogation which could be counterproductive. Exceptionally, international drivers’ longer weekly rest periods will be able to be accumulated over a longer period, up to two and a half weeks apart, up from two weeks under the current rules. ETSC fears that this change could increase fatigue – with drivers forced to work without a longer rest period over an extended time frame. ETSC says the use of this derogation must be properly enforced by governments to ensure that it is only used in exceptional circumstances, as specified in the new law. It should also be subject to review and reassessment in the future if exploited unduly.
The rules are still subject to final agreement by the European Parliament and national transport ministers, but no further changes are expected.