ETF Road Section parking lot visit in Madrid confirms Mobility Package rules are still not correctly enforced and implemented, and that flexibility in rules is not the answer to driver shortage in freight and passenger road transport. The only way to address the crisis in the industry is to enforce existing rules and improve working conditions.
Europe faces a systematic shortage of professional drivers – thanks to a sector defined by low pay and poor working conditions. The Mobility Package – a set of EU rules governing road transport in the EU, if correctly enforced and implemented, can contribute to better conditions for drivers and help fix the sector.
Unfortunately, during a parking visit in Madrid on 19 September to collect information about drivers’ working conditions, drivers ETF spoke to only had examples of how the Mobility Package is not being enforced and implemented.
Drivers informed ETF that instead of providing them with decent accommodation for their weekly rest, some employers make a calculation of costs and decide to pay the fine instead, as it is cheaper than paying for accommodation.
According to the Mobility Package, the employer must organise work in a way that ensures that the driver is able to return home regularly. Drivers we talked to informed us that many employers do not follow this rule and make different arrangements with individual employees. This is not legal, but operators get away with it due to a lack of controls and inspections.
Some of the drivers informed us that they do not remember the last time they encountered a roadside check to assess their working conditions, remuneration, and driving and rest time. Drivers work for years without coming across an inspection!
Deplorable conditions in a typical parking area in Madrid where drivers ETF spoke to voices fears for their safety due to thefts and explained how they cannot fulfil their basic needs due to lack of facilities.
Drivers’ testimonies tie in directly to ETF’s 2021 driver fatigue report, where it was revealed poor working conditions such as those illustrated above are directly linked to fatigue in professional drivers.
The Spanish situation
An overview of the road transport sector in Spain by ETF’s Spanish affiliates FSC-CCOO and UGT confirmed that there is no shortage of drivers but decent , work which can be felt not just in Spain but all over Europe.
Many people have the necessary permits and licenses to work as a professional driver, but they simply do not want to work in this sector anymore.
To remedy this, CCOO and UGT are leading a campaign for the early retirement of professional drivers. They also recently celebrated an achievement on banning loading and unloading of merchandise by professional drivers in Spain and Portugal, which can be a significant health and safety risk. Based on this good practice, the ETF will study the issue at a wider European level.
European Commission plans and ETF action
ETF’s 2021 report uncovered that 66% of bus and coach drivers revealed they had to drive while fatigued on a regular basis and shows that making driving and resting times more flexible will only increase levels of driver fatigue.
Despite this alarming number and the shortage of drivers due to lack of decent work, the Commission plans to propose more flexible rules for the bus & coach sector on driving and rest time.
These flexible rules would derogate from the Mobility Package’s current driving and rest time rules which have the potential to guarantee a decent work environment in both freight and passenger transport.
The ETF is currently working on a paper that points to concrete problems, reveals the risks associated with more flexibility and reflects the actual needs of bus and coach drivers.
Soon, the European Commission will present a report to the European Parliament and the Council on driving and rest time in bus and coach passenger transport – the ETF is keeping a close eye and will react to the report.