EU law puts White Van Man in the firing line

UK haulage firms and bus companies threatened after European Parliament vote

BRUSSELS, 2 February 2006 -- Rural bus services, local delivery firms and haulage businesses throughout the UK face an uncertain future following a vote in the European Parliament today which tightens regulation on drivers’ hours and rest periods.

Sir Robert Atkins MEP, Conservative Transport Committee member, said the vote would hit small companies and rural firms especially hard. He said that people living in the countryside would see local bus services further undermined by the legislation, which the Government must now transpose into national law.

The law will mean drivers must take a break of at least 45 minutes for every four-and-a-half hours of being at the wheel (eg. not even necessarily driving); it prescribes a minimum period of 11 hours between shifts; it means the time an employee spends driving to and from work to start a shift counts as work time; and it limits a commercial driver’s hours to a maximum of 90 hours in any two-week period.

The practical consequences of this legislation will be:

  • - even fewer rural bus services; coach companies cutting back operations
  • - new costs imposed on smaller firms obliged to hire new staff
  • - job losses as companies cut back operations to absorb costs
  • - massive increases in costs for delivery companies at Christmas
  • - less flexibility to meet customer demand, undermining small businesses in particular

Labour and Lib Dem MEPs voted in favour of this legislation.

Sir Robert said:

“These proposals are another nail in the coffin for small and medium-sized transport companies.

“The European Commission has again ignored common sense and gone ahead with the ‘bureaucrat knows best’ approach. Obviously business people can’t be trusted to do what’s best for their firms and their staff.

“The Commission is portraying itself as the champion of deregulation but this package of unworkable laws is just the opposite. It will damage competitiveness and undermine investment.

A spokesman for the Confederation of Passenger Transport, a national trade association representing bus and coach operators, said:

“This is bad news for bus and coach operators, and for their passengers. The new rules will reduce flexibility of working patterns, increase company costs, and inevitably lead to higher fares.

“It could mean that some coach journeys and longer-distance bus routes become unviable and disappear. We do not believe that safety will be further improved as a result, or that workers in the UK industry generally support the changes.

“It looks like a case of regulation for regulation’s sake. In the end it will be the passenger who suffers.”

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