Drivers' directive still riling independents

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Drivers' directive still riling independents

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A protest battle over regulating professional drivers’ working time is being waged in Brussels. A majority in the European Parliament’s Transport Committee has voted against revising a directive. If the full parliament votes in the coming weeks to maintain that directive’s covering independent drivers, further tough negotiations will follow.

Independent drivers warn that employers would seek to play the system if time rules were not applied equally to drivers who are in companies and those such as themselves.

One said: “I’d be authorised to do 86 hours per week, and I would just invoice the company. This would distort competition between us and employees.”

Critics say allowing self-regulation by independents invites abuses by companies who could hire them to work longer hours at low cost, and escape social welfare obligations in the bargain, also putting ordinary drivers’ lives at stake.

British MEP Stephen Hughes said: “This is downright dangerous. You shouldn’t have to wonder when you are driving down the autoroute whether that giant truck behind you is being driven by an employed driver who is rested or a self-employed driver who has worked 84 or 86 hours this week. It’s downright dangerous.”

MEPs originally voted to cap all drivers at 48-60 hours per week, but the Employment Committee overturned that.

The conservatives support the European Commission’s separate proposal for independents.

Slovak MEP Edit Bauer: “The main objective of this directive is to protect employees, while I am firmly convinced that self-employed do not need protection against themselves.”

The Transport Workers’ Federation says that more than half of long haul drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel, linked with long hours, and says fatigue produces effects similar to loss of control due to alcohol.