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IP/00/1544 22-11

Brussels, 22 Decovembreember 2000

Council agreement on working time in road transport: a major breakthrough for "Social Europe".

The Council of Ministers today reached agreement on a proposal for a directive on the working time of lorry drivers which is designed to regulate working time at European level so that the average weekly working time may not exceed 48 hours but can be extended to 60 hours if the average of 48 hours per week is not exceeded during a four-month reference period. Self-employed drivers are temporarily excluded from the scope of the directive, as this was the only way of brokering an agreement on this proposal which had been blocked for two years. However, two years after the date for incorporation into national law the Commission will have to submit a report assessing the impact of the exclusion of self-employed drivers and make any proposals that it considers necessary. Loyola de Palacio, the Vice-President with responsibility for transport and energy, welcomed this agreement which "represents a crucial breakthrough for "Social Europe" in a hitherto excluded sector." She also stressed that "over and above the enforcement of fundamental social rights, this directive will help to improve road safety: we have today taken a vital step towards safer and more competitive road transport which should subsequently be followed up by agreement on our other proposals concerning driver training and certificates and harmonised rules governing bans on the driving of HGVs".

There is a general directive setting a maximum average working week of 48 hours (directive 93/104 as amended). The Commission submitted a proposal to regulate working time in the road transport sector in 1998, but its proposal has been blocked within the Council mainly on account of the issue of whether or not to include self-employed drivers within the scope of the directive.

In November, to clear the way for an early decision on this matter within the Council, but without changing the nature of its proposal, the Commission amended its proposal to temporarily exclude such drivers.

On the basis of the agreement reached within the Council by a qualified majority, two years after the time limit for incorporating the directive into national law the Commission will submit to the Council and the European Parliament an assessment of the consequences of the temporary exclusion of self-employed drivers. This assessment will in particular analyse the effect of excluding self-employed drivers on road safety, competition, the structure of the occupation, and the social aspects. Depending on the results of this analysis, the Commission may make proposals concerning the conditions under which self-employed drivers, the definition of which will have to be clarified, will be subject to the directive no later than three years after the date for incoporation into national law.

The directive, which has yet to be approved by the European Parliament, will have to be incorporated into national law no later than two years after it enters into force.

It is based on the areas of agreement emerging from discussions between the two sides of industry, and its main provisions are as follows:

  • Broader definition of working time than in the current rules governing driving time: it includes activities such as loading and unloading; supervising passengers getting in and out of buses and coaches; cleaning, maintenance and inspection of the safety of the vehicle; ensuring the safety of the vehicle, the load and the passengers; administrative formalities with police, customs and immigration officers; in addition, standby duty is defined as the time during which workers are at their place of work and ready to take up working duties.

  • Maximum average working week of 48 hours over a four-month reference period.

  • Maximum weekly working time of 60 hours (compared with 78 in the general directive on working time).

  • A break of at least 30 minutes after 6 hours' work and at least 45 minutes after 9 hours' work.

  • Ban on night workers working more than 10 hours a day.

Where derogations are concerned, the Commission's proposals are as follows:

  • Derogations from the maximum average working week, rest periods and night work may be adopted by means of national legislation or collective agreements or agreements between the two sides of industry, provided that the workers concerned are afforded equivalent periods of compensatory rest.

  • The option to derogate from the average period may not result in the establishment of a reference period exceeding six months for an average maximum weekly working time of 48 hours.

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