The European Commission recently proposed a set of rules covering driving and rest times for tourist bus drivers to ensure safety, efficient and high-quality transport services and better working conditions for drivers that minimize stress and fatigue.
Among others, the Commission is proposing that bus and coach drivers distribute their breaks and rest periods more flexibly, daily and weekly rest periods and at the same time actions that will ensure that international and domestic occasional passenger transport operations are treated equally. There are no changes to the minimum duration of breaks or rest periods, nor to maximum driving times.
The Commission recommendation takes into account the varying working conditions between occasional passenger transport, freight transport and regular passenger transport. Tourist transportation activities are highly seasonal with peaks in demand for passenger trips during certain seasons of the year and include varying driving distances depending on the tourist activities undertaken by passengers. Additionally, drivers may they need to accommodate unplanned and impromptu passenger requests in terms of additional stops, changes of routes, or changes of schedule.
More specifically the proposal foresees:
-breaks: drivers will be allowed to split their breaks (of a minimum of 45 minutes for 4.5 hours of driving) into two periods of a minimum of 30 and 15 minutes, or into three periods of a minimum of 15 minutes each. This will help them to take breaks more flexibly and at convenient times
-daily rest periods: drivers can postpone the start of their daily rest period by one hour when the total daily driving period for that day does not exceed seven hours, or postpone it by two hours when the total daily driving period does not exceed five hours
-weekly rest periods: the rules for international occasional passenger transport services that take place solely within a single country will be aligned with the rules for international services, allowing drivers to postpone the weekly rest period for up to 12 consecutive days.
IRU: A step in the right direction
The International Road Transport Union (IRU) welcomed the European Commission’s proposal, which is “a step in the right direction” that will benefit coach tourism drivers, passengers and operators.
According to IRU, as it stands, coach tourism drivers are subject to the same driving and rest time provisions as truck drivers who transport goods.
“However, their work differs significantly from other modes of transport in terms of operational and driving patterns, as they are significantly influenced by the schedules and expectations of their passengers,” IRU said in an announcement.
IRU Director of EU Advocacy Raluca Marian said that targeted and specific driving and rest time provisions for coach tourism will allow drivers to better react to situations during their trips while also significantly reducing the stress generated by rules unfit for tourism.
“We now call on policymakers to unequivocally support the proposal and bring about an impactful change for the coach tourism sector, especially for drivers,” Marian said, adding that the Commission’s proposal will improve working conditions by aligning the schedule of drivers with the expectations of passengers.
“It’s a breath of fresh air for a sector that was severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.
IRU is the world road transport organisation and represents the entire industry – bus, coach, truck and taxi.