Brussels must consult with coach drivers over safety rules

24 May 2008

Brussels must consult with coach drivers over safety rules

“It is annoying for coach drivers to be subjected to limitations on what they can and cannot do. If the job is to remain attractive then there must be room for a certain amount of trust in a driver's capacity to exercise his or her own judgement. But it's just as bad for the European Commission to put an end to measures designed to protect drivers without any consultation with their unions.”

Erik MeijerSP Euro-MP Erik Meijer: ‘The rules protecting drivers from fatigue can themselves also create stress, leading, to a deterioration in the quality of service for the traveller. Take a case in which a tourist falls ill on the way to a holiday destination and the driver can't take them to hospital because he or she is obliged by the rules to rest. Surely you should be able to help in such a circumstance without risking a fine? Passengers often don't understand why this isn't allowed and put pressure on the driver. Result, more stress.”

Rules achieve opposite of what's intended

Erik Meijer has put a number of questions to the European Commission on the matter, arguing for more attention to be paid to the nature of the driver's work. The rules sometimes lead to precisely the opposite of what is intended, to an overburdening of the worker. Take the annoying business of having to read through a digital tachograph, for example, the instrument that registers journey times. Belgium and Spain operate quite different rules, leading to uncertainty and the risk of heavy fines for the drivers. There is also irritation over having to make detours in order to pick up a vignette to be allowed to drop passengers off in the centre of a town. These kinds of burdens on workers are avoidable, Meijer insists. “It can't ever have been the intention that by measuring the amount of work done by drivers we would simply be adding to it. Many coach drivers have more than one job, but the tachograph doesn't pick this up.”

Consultation needed

Meijer's view is that the European Commission must consult with the trade unions at European level in order to draw up effective rules which nevertheless avoid these problems. He believes that a distinction must be drawn between rules for truck drivers, long-distance commuter buses, and coach trips where driving times per day must be averaged out. Brussels must make use of the European Transport workers' Federation (ETF), and the ETF and Commission should consult with each other in order to come up with improved rules. Regulation should prevent the exploitation of employees, while offering them more responsibility for their own work, while prioritising of course the safety of passenger and driver.

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