Road Haulage ordered to apply Working Time Directive

30/04/2012

The European Commission has requested that member states Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Poland, Portugal and Spain “to take appropriate measures” to apply the Working Time Directive to self-employed road hauliers.

The European Commission issued a warning to these countries, saying,

“If these member states fail to inform the commission within two months about the measures taken to ensure compliance with EU law in this respect, the commission could refer the cases to the European Court of Justice.”

The Working Time Directive was initially adopted in March 2002 with the intention “to establish minimum requirements in relation to the organisation of working time in order to improve the health and safety protection of persons performing mobile road transport activities and to improve road safety and align conditions of competition”.

Provision was made to exempt self-employed drivers until March 2009.

However, three years on, the European Commission claims that seven states “have failed to communicate to the commission appropriate measures taken to transpose the directive”. This has prompted the threat of judicial action.

The European Commission added that Self-employed drivers in member states ignoring the directive, and in particular its weekly working time limits would result in “a non-harmonised framework throughout the EU”, and distortion of competition against those member states which have properly applied the directive.

“The issue of whether or not the application of the rules to self-employed drivers is appropriate was extensively discussed between the commission, parliament and council on the occasion of the expiry of the exemption for this category of drivers,” it added.

The European Parliament demanded that the exemption should come to an end while the European Commission saw some practical difficulties in the application of ending the exemption.

In France, there are over 10,000 owner-operator truckers and the country’s leading road haulage federation, the FNTR, claims there are “practical difficulties” in applying the directive.

A spokesperson from the FNTR said, “It’s important to point out that the directive refers to working time and not driving time, where the same rules apply to all haulage firms.”

“Regulating how many hours an owner-operator puts in away from the wheel appears a nigh impossible task.”

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