In positive news for road safety, new EU rules on professional driver training requirements will not include a proposed blanket exemption for lorry and bus drivers on journeys of less than 100km from the company base. That’s according to a legislative deal between the European Parliament and EU Member States agreed earlier this month.
A major exemption, proposed by the European Parliament’s transport committee in an October vote, could have had a significant negative impact on road safety according to ETSC. MEPs had added text that could have excluded many professional bus and lorry drivers from the need to do additional professional training, as long as they stayed with 100km from their base. TISPOL, the European network of traffic police, also raised concerns over the enforceability of the rules.
The final political deal on the legislation, hammered out in a behind-closed-doors ‘trilogue’ meeting between institutional negotiators earlier in December, still includes an exemption for “drivers of vehicles operating in rural areas to supply the driver’s own business”. But lawmakers also agreed the exemption should only apply if the journey is not related to transport services and where Member States consider that the transport is “occasional and does not impact road safety”.
Commenting on the compromise deal, Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of ETSC said:
“This final wording appears to be a significant improvement on the Transport Committee’s proposal. However, we struggle to see any situation where road safety would not be compromised by letting drivers get behind the wheel of large vehicles with only the minimum level of training. It is welcome that the exemption will not apply in urban areas where there is the most interaction with pedestrians and cyclists, but rural roads also carry significant risks.
“When heavy vehicles crash, the consequences are very often devastating. It would be absurd and wrong to explain to the families of the victims of such a collision that the driver had been exempted from additional training because he or she only drove occasionally or was just delivering to their own business. The simple fact remains: there can be no justification for exempting those who take the responsibility of driving large vehicles from receiving the training they need.
“When implementing these new rules, we urge Member States to very seriously consider the requirement that the exemption must ‘not impact road safety’ before allowing any drivers to escape initial and ongoing training.”
ETSC has long argued that, rather than being restricted to fewer drivers, professional training requirements should have been extended to those who drive vans professionally. Van use has increased dramatically in recent years thanks to the explosion in home deliveries. Van drivers are not currently required to undertake any additional professional training, though employers are required to carry out risk assessments which should cover driving as well as training needs. For ETSC, the failure to extend the professional training legislation to van drivers is a missed opportunity to improve road safety.
In a positive development, welcomed by ETSC, the final deal includes requirements for training on danger recognition, coping with stress and mitigating distraction as well as coping with severe weather conditions.
The political deal now needs to be formally approved by the European Parliament and EU member states.