Bus and truck drivers affirm experience of fatigue and stress in an ETF workshop on driver fatigue

15 Dec 2020

The ETF Safer roads in Europe project moves to a new stage as we recently wrapped up our two workshops on passenger and freight road transport. The ETF study on fatigue and the survey results now have a new dimension due to the eye-opening testimonials and input we received from drivers and experts on the issue of driver fatigue.

The two workshops brought together over 60 bus drivers and truck drivers from across Europe. The aim was to discuss and deepen – together with the project expert wmp consult – the ETF fatigue survey results, notably fatigue figures, causes and remedies. Indeed, the topic was studied from all perspectives, and we were joined by speakers from the ETSC – a long-standing ally of the ETF in road safety, by fatigue experts Dr. Birger Neubauer & Dr. Karolien Lauwers, and enforcers that have day to day practice in checking tachograph, driving and rest time rules.

Driving a truck in Europe nowadays is a big challenge: long hours, and periods away from home, poor rest conditions. But being and bus and coach driver is yet a different story with passenger interaction adding to drivers’ distraction factors and tasks. It also impacts on the possibility of the driver to take breaks during driving for example.

Legally, a bus driver must have 9, 10 or 11 hours of rest per day. But an ETF survey into working conditions of bus and coach drivers (2016) shows they effectively rest for maximum 6 hours. This is particularly the case in bus and coach tourism!

Pay is also very poor, which leads to drivers in passenger transport taking on two or three jobs at a time to meet ends. This considerably increases their working hours (often not registered), and driving time due to poorly constructed laws where driving time registration is not required in some bus services.

In freight transport, drivers already experience fatigue caused by the new EU driving and rest time rules. Since August 2020, in international freight transport, operators can make drivers take two consecutive reduced weekly rest periods. Drivers attending the ETF fatigue workshop for freight transport said they witness even more accumulated tiredness and stress. Under the old rules, reduced weekly rest periods alternated with normal ones for all professional drivers. The possibility given by the new rules, to interrupt the weekly rest periods to accompany a vehicle on a ferry, is deadly for driver health and road safety, said our participants. 80% of our 2800 survey respondents identified interruption of rest periods as a cause for fatigue in goods transport.

“Drivers are a professional category at a very high risk in terms of fatigue”, reckoned Dr. Birger Neubauer from the Professional Association for Transport who took part in the workshop. Drivers are also more likely to suffer from sleep apnoea, which increases the risks to their health and safety even further, as “someone suffering from sleep apnoea has a four times higher risk of accidents,” cautioned Dr. Karolien Lauwers from Mensura.

Looking towards the future, much work remains to be done. The ETF is committed to changing the sector for the better and will, without delay, pass on our driver’s message to EU and national law makers. And what do our drivers want? To have laws changed so that night drive is abolished, the minimum daily rest is of 11 hours instead of 9, and controls and sanctions for all those operators in breach of the EU rules.

‘Rest is not just about sleeping, we have a private life, families, friends, hobbies. That’s part of the picture too. And if we want more youngsters in the sector that we need better pay and conditions!’ affirmed one of the participants of the event. Further data on the issue of driver fatigue will be published soon as the ETF will finalise their study in June 2021.

The two workshops were organised in the frame of the EU-funded project “Trade unions and drivers for safer roads in Europe”, supported by EVA Akademie. For more information about the project, please click here.