July 8 marks the day the European Parliament adopted the Mobility Package one year ago, which sets out new rules on professional drivers’ working conditions in EU freight and passenger road transport.
The new EU rules were adopted with the purpose of advancing drivers’ working conditions and setting fair and clear rules to an otherwise deregulated sector where abusive practices and lack of enforcement – due to unclear EU rules in the past – had become the norm in large parts of the European road transport market.
However, one year in and there is still much to be desired in terms of implementation and enforcement of the new rules. Reports from ETF affiliates suggest that the rules are not being respected and complied with by certain parts of the market nor consistently enforced by all Member State authorities.
This notably concerns those rules that have been applicable since summer/autumn last year regarding driving times and rest periods; the ban on taking the regular weekly rest in the cabin; and the obligation on a company to organise the work of its drivers in a way that enables the drivers to return every three or four weeks to the driver’s place of residence or an operational centre of the company.
A recent ETF study on driver fatigue conducted on the basis of a survey of more than 2,800 professional drivers from all over Europe showed that the road sector is mired by structural fatigue amongst its drivers owing to poor working conditions and non-compliance with the EU rules. 66% of the surveyed bus & coach drivers and 60% of the surveyed truck drivers reported having to drive while being fatigued on a regular basis. As a consequence, more than a quarter of the drivers reported either having fallen asleep behind the wheel while driving or having nearly crashed and caused an accident in the past year.
Moreover, recent documentaries have revealed that parts of the European road transport sector continue to be infested by fraud, human trafficking, extortion and social dumping. While some of these practices are not just in violation of the Mobility Package but downright criminal, they have nonetheless been allowed to persist and become common practice in certain parts of the market.
The Mobility Package can indeed advance driver working conditions and tackle much of the abuse in the sector, but it requires that the rules are enforced.
The ETF, therefore, calls on the European Commission and the Member States to step up their game and prioritise and invest much more in enforcement, including roadside checks and company checks. Enforcement will not be any less important in the coming months when the next part of the new rules become applicable, such as those relating to posting rules and cabotage. Rules are only as good as their enforcement.