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Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and Council - Towards a safer and more competitive high-quality road transport system in the Community

/* COM/2000/0364 final */
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52000DC0364

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and Council - Towards a safer and more competitive high-quality road transport system in the Community /* COM/2000/0364 final */


COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND COUNCIL Towards a safer and more competitive high-quality road transport system in the Community

INTRODUCTION

1. Professional road transport is crucial to the smooth functioning of the internal market, and its market share is growing all the time. Nevertheless, this mode of transport is not without its problems. Indeed, it is having to face challenges on a number of fronts:

- the opening-up of access to the internal market which has been going ahead in several stages over the last 12 years, the latest stage having commenced on 1 July 1998 [1];

[1] Regulation n° 3118/93 of 25 October 1993 laying down the conditions under which non-resident carriers may operate national road haulage services within a Member State (O.J. L279 of 12.11.93).

- the pressures created by the ensuing and constantly increasing competition;

- the need to improve the safety performance of road transport;

- the necessity to avoid distortions of competition;

- the social disquiet which is manifested in the sector and it threatens to bring the whole process to a halt;

- the emergence of new phenomena affecting the working conditions of lorry drivers, notably the use of a labour force operating under irregular working conditions;

- the need to adapt continuously to new technical, technological, environmental and logistical developments;

- the intensification of transport relations with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe against the background of enlargement.

2. With a view to helping the sector to adapt to these changes, to promoting its cohesion and to avoiding certain adverse effects on the internal market, steps need to be taken to:

- strengthen the conditions of fair competition between road transport firms and between the various modes of transport;

- provide on one hand better health and safety protection not only for mobile workers in the road transport sector but also for other road users in particular regarding transport of dangerous goods and on the other hand protect the environment;

- encourage drivers to provide high-quality services;

- develop employment in the sector and improve working conditions.

3. To this end, the Commission feels, in the light of the proposals already transmitted [2] and of those envisaged in its work programme [3], that the balance needs to be redressed with regard to certain working conditions that affect competition and that a coherent package of measures needs to be implemented in the following areas:

[2] Proposal for a Council Directive concerning the organisation of working time for mobile workers performing road transport activities and for self-employed drivers (COM (1998) 662 final). The working time mentioned here contains, apart from driving, primarily loading and unloading of the vehicle.

[3] COM (2000) 155 final of 9 February 2000.

- organisation of working time for drivers;

- certain conditions on the employment of drivers in the EU;

- monitoring of road transport;

- initial and continuing training for drivers.

It is the aim of this communication to describe these various aspects of road transport that will need to figure in the package.

ORGANISATION OF WORKING TIME FOR DRIVERS

4. In November 1998 the Commission presented a proposal for a Directive [4] but, despite European Parliament support, the proposal is currently blocked in the Council. This hold-up is attributable in the main to sharp differences of opinion among the Member States over whether or not to include self-employed drivers within the scope of the Directive.

[4]

In this connection, the following should be noted.

- the attempt, under the Finnish Presidency, to introduce a distinction between "genuine" self-employed drivers (who could be excluded from the Directive) and "bogus" self-employed drivers (who would have to be included in the Directive) has failed;

- given the impasse in the Council, the retention of the proposal as it stands is doomed to failure;

- the recent amendment to the Directive concerning the organisation of working time [5] (general Directive) in order to include the mobile workers of the road transport sector does not produce the desired degree of harmonisation, particularly with regard to the definition of 'working time'. In fact this proposal for a Directive [6] concerning road transport contains a common definition of 'working time' while the general Directive on the organisation of working time, on this point refers to the legislations and/or national practices.

[5] Directive 2000/34/EC amending Council Directive 93/104/EC concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time to cover sectors and activities excluded from the Directive (O.J. n°....)

[6]

5. The inclusion of self-employed drivers was fully justified for reasons mainly associated with road safety and the harmonisation of conditions for competition. Nevertheless, the Commission could - with a view to obtaining a result in the near future and given that the common rules on driving and rest periods apply to self-employed drivers in the same way as the supervisory measures referred to in points 8 - 11 below will also apply to those drivers - accept the idea of temporarily excluding self-employed drivers from the Directive, on condition that this idea attracts sufficient support. It is only after having discussed with the Council and the European Parliament in the context of the debate on the present Communication, consulting also the social partners, that the Commission could envisage to make a new proposal which would exclude the self-employed drivers from the Directive.

Timetable for these exchanges of views: immediate action.

CERTAIN CONDITIONS ON THE EMPLOYMENT OF DRIVERS

6. A growing number of drivers (often from third countries) is being employed illegally to drive Community vehicles engaged in intra-Community transport operations under "non-Community" working conditions (low wages, virtually unlimited working time, poor welfare cover). This situation is causing distortions of competition in the internal market between modes of transport and between road haulage companies. There is a risk, moreover, that it will pose safety problems. Lastly, it is causing job losses and a deterioration in working conditions, and hence a general destabilisation of employment in the Union.

On 23 March 2000 the competent Commission departments held a meeting with the government experts. In the course of this meeting various aspects of the situation were examined, including transport issues, working conditions as well as matters relating to control and implementation.

7. The solution advocated on the basis of the views expressed by the Member States received the overwhelming backing of the experts present at the meeting and can be summed up as follows:

- a new Regulation is to be introduced obliging the Member States to issue a "driver's certification" to any driver driving a vehicle covered by a Community authorisation issued under the common rules [7];

[7] Council Regulation (EEC) No 881/92 of 26 March 1992 on access to the market in the carriage of goods by road within the Community to or from the territory of a Member State or passing across the territory of one or more Member States (OJ L 95, 9.4.92, p. 1).

- this standard certification will enable checks to be made throughout the Union on the regularity of conditions of driver's employment;

- this certification will be issued by the Member State authorities to the hauliers holding the Community authorisation provided for under Regulation No 881/92; the hauliers will then be responsible for passing it on to each of their drivers concerned (haulier to be held jointly responsible in the event of an infringement of the conditions mentioned in the previous indent).

Certain of these aspects could be linked to the Communication on the immigration and asylum policies [8] as well as the Scoreboard to review progress on the creation of an area of "freedom, security and justice" in the European Union [9] and the Communication on non-declared work [10]. However the above mentioned proposal for a Regulation which is foreseen in this year's work programme of the Commission adopted on 9.2.2000 (see footnote 3) takes into account the specificities of road transport.

[8] COM (1998) 23 final of 23 February 1994.

[9] COM (2000) 167 final of 24 March 2000.

[10] COM (1998) 219 final of 7 April 1998.

Timetable: the proposal will be presented in September/October 2000.

MONITORING OF ROAD TRANSPORT

8. The effectiveness of the common and national rules will depend, inevitably, on whether they are properly applied. Proper application of the rules will depend, in turn, on their acceptance by the sector and on the systems of controls and penalties introduced by the Member States.

9. The forthcoming introduction of the electronic tachograph at the end of 2002 represents a significant step forward in improving the effectiveness of the enforcement measures. Such electronic recording equipment is bound to improve considerably the levels of compliance with the rules, in particular by ensuring better protection of the recorded data and by enabling a large number of checks to be carried out in a short period of time.

Timetable: the action already embarked on with Regulation (EC) n° 2135/98 [11]will take effect at the end of 2002 / beginning of 2003.

[11] Regulation EC n°2135/98 amending Regulation (EEC n° 3821/85 on recording equipment in road transport and Directive 88/599/EEC (O.J. n° L 274 of 9 October 1998, p.1)

10. A communication on inspections and penalties in the road transport sector is planned under the Commission's Work Programme 2000. The aim is to improve the effectiveness and consistency of the inspections carried out by the competent Member State authorities. To this end, the communication will draw attention to a number of measures that could usefully be taken, such as systematic exchange of information, co-ordination of inspection activities, regular consultations between national administrations and training of inspectors. The communication could well give rise to recommendations being made to the Member States or to the launching of concerted action involving the Member States and supported by the Commission.

Timetable: action to commence in the second half of 2000.

11. Lastly, it is planned to strengthen Directive 88/599/EEC [12] which currently obliges Member States to monitor 1% of the days worked by drivers with a view to verifying compliance with the driving and rest period requirements. The aim of amending the Directive is to increase this figure of 1%, where appropriate in gradual stages, so as to ensure that a significant number of inspections are carried out. Taking into account the introduction of the electronic tachograph with effect from 2002, it will be easier, from a technical point of view, to increase the number of these inspections, although steps will need to be taken so as not to discourage the use of the electronic tachograph, and hence the renewal of the road vehicle fleet.

[12] Council Directive 88/599/EEC of 23 November 1988 on standard checking procedures for the implementation of Regulation (EEC) No 3820/85 on the harmonisation of certain social legislation relating to road transport and Regulation (EEC) No 3821/85 on recording equipment in road transport.

Timetable: the proposal will be presented at the end of 2000 / beginning of 2001.

TRAINING

12. To date, only two Community acts exist on the training of drivers, viz.

- Directive 76/914/EEC [13] on the training of some drivers, albeit very limited in scope (some drivers between the ages of 18 and 21) and not entirely adapted to today's needs;

[13] Council Directive 76/914/EEC of 16 December 1976 on the minimum level of training for some road transport drivers (OJ L 357, 29.12.76)

- Directive 91/439/EEC [14] on driving licences, the provisions of which do not take account of the specific requirements associated with the job of driving.

[14] Council Directive 91/439/CEE of 29 July 1991 on driving licences (OJ L 237, 24.08.91, p. 1)

On the other hand, two Member States have adopted national rules applicable to persons wishing to take up professional driving activities.

13. In order to improve the quality of the services offered by drivers, to make the driver's job more respected and more attractive, to increase road safety and to facilitate the free movement of workers, new common rules need to be introduced that take account of technical developments and accumulated knowhow in this area. The concepts of road safety, rational driving with a view, inter alia, to savings of non renewable energy and reducing CO2 emissions, quality of service, drivers' health, transport, labour and safety regulations and knowledge of the driver's economic and social environment should be developed further and incorporated in a modernised training course. The competent Commission departments have started work on preparations to present a proposal for a Directive laying down common rules on initial compulsory training for all new professional drivers of vehicles intended for the carriage of goods or passengers and on the provision of ongoing training for all professional drivers at regular intervals. The close involvement of the sector in all such professional training arrangements is essential.

Timetable: a proposal will be presented at the end of 2000 / beginning of 2001.

****************

14. In this context, the related question whether steps should be taken to amend the common rules on driving and rest periods for drivers [15], should be examined at a later stage.

[15] Regulation (EEC) No 3820/85 (OJ L 370, 31.12.1985, p. 1).

In one way, given that self-employed drivers would probably be excluded from the scope of the Directive concerning the organisation of working time, it would be logical to reduce somewhat the driving periods stipulated for drivers under Regulation (EEC) No 3820/85, since this Regulation applies equally to self-employed drivers.

In another way, we need to proceed with caution before embarking, should the need arise, on a course of action designed to amend these rules, given that:

- the maximum limits on driving periods and the minimum rest period requirements have been in existence for about 15 years, are well known to all concerned, have proved their worth and are not , in themselves, contested;

- what is lacking, on the other hand, is full compliance and proper application of these common rules; the measures referred to above in points 8 to 11 are calculated to improve the situation considerably;

- following the amendment of the general Directive concerning the organisation of working time, which has just been formally adopted [16], mobile workers (paid workers) in the road transport sector are now also covered by the general rule introduced under that Directive, viz. that the average working week must not exceed 48 hours.

[16] See footnote (4)

CONCLUSION

15. Steps need to be taken to overcome the difficulties facing road transport and to strengthen cohesion in this sector. If we are to achieve this aim, we must ensure that the approach we adopt is not a fragmented one. Only a global policy comprising a coherent and balanced package of multifarious measures is likely to bear fruit. This communication pinpoints the actions needed for the deployment of such a global and coherent policy covering such aspects as road safety and competition in the road transport sector as well as the economic and social aspects, with a view to reaching political agreement within the Council during the second half of this year so as to ensure the development in the Community of a safer and more competitive high-quality road transport system.

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