MEPs reject trucking rules in setback for EU Mobility Package

New rules on how long professional truck drivers should spend on the road will be delayed by at least 18 months after the European Parliament voted down proposals on July 4.

MEPs in Strasbourg rejected three pieces of draft legislation on provisional drivers, derailing efforts to overhaul road transport regulations. They were voting on a number of issues, including whether labour rules should apply to truck drivers on foreign trips; how many pick-ups and drop-offs a driver can do outside their home country; and driving and rest times.

The proposals were originally made in the European Commission’s May 2017 Mobility Package, which covered driving and rest times, as well as the posting of workers and cabotage. All are aimed at improving both the working conditions for truck drivers and the enforcement of rules that are all too often broken.

The issue already attracted a lot of outside interest, with the International Road Transport Union (IRU) saying the rules could mean hauliers would have less flexibility in managing their journey, and the European Transport Federation of Workers (ETF) saying it could mean employers keeping drivers on the road for three weeks with no more than 24 hours’ rest.

The vote followed a heated debate in the plenary, with some MEPs pointing to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s slogan for equal pay for equal work, the fight against the so-called social dumping as arguments for more protection for drivers. Czech MEP Martina Dlabajová, from the liberal ALDE group, said the vote to reject the proposals sent “a negative signal to Europe.”

But many MEPs welcomed the rejection. Belgian MEP Kathleen Van Brempt, from the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D), argued against the proposal, saying, “The well-being of 3.6 million professional drivers is at stake. As well as, the safety of all other drivers, and bus and coach passengers.” British Green MEP Keith Taylor said the proposals would have been, “damaging and dangerous”. He said it would lead to drivers facing the prospect of working 12 hours straight, 16 days in a row.

What happens next is still unclear. The vote means the files will now be sent back to the Parliament’s Transport Committee for a redraft. That effectively means that these issues will not come back before the next European Parliament elections, in May next year. With all the procedures for the new Parliament, they are unlikely to be picked up before next November – and even then, there is no guarantee that the freshly-elected MEPs will be any more inclined towards the proposals.