More flexibility or more regulation?

IF – 09/2023

Before the summer break, the European Commission presented a proposal to amend Regulation (EC) No 561/2006 as regards minimum requirements for minimum breaks and minimum daily and weekly rest periods in the passenger transport sector. This provides for flexibility of the fixed rest periods for drivers of tourist buses.

On the road across Europe

The occupational group of coach drivers is not comparable to truck or regular bus drivers. Especially during seasonal peaks, such as the summer and winter months, longer distances have to be travelled. To protect drivers, it is essential to have working conditions, minimum breaks and rest periods that take this into account. In order to meet physical needs in a more flexible way and to improve the quality of life and road safety, the European Commission is calling for more flexible rest periods.

Stop regulatory overreach

Mid-September, the European Parliament discussed the dossier in the lead Transport Committee (TRAN) and in the co-advisory Committee on Social Affairs and Employment (EMPL). The rapporteurs Henna Virkkunen (EPP/FIN) for the TRAN Committee and Marianne Vind (S&D/DK) for the EMPL Committee gave a first assessment. During the discussion, the MEPs basically saw no need to introduce more regulations, but uphold the existing harmonised rules for road and freight transport, to which Regulation (EC) No 561/2006 refers. However, due to the stressful working day, many night trips and an increased degree of fatigue, the lack of balance between work and family and a regular working day should also be taken into account, according to the rapporteurs. Therefore, drivers should take their breaks without any regulatory overreach. Many MPs are critical of flexibility, as otherwise the fixed breaks would not be observed or, in the worst case, would not be taken at all.

There is still need for discussion between the institutions

The final report of the European Parliament will be finalised this year, but MEPs do not expect a quick agreement with the European Commission. During the debate in the EMPL Committee, the latter already expressed its "disappointment" with the contents of the submitted draft report.