Ministers also agreed that drivers have a minimum uninterrupted daily rest period of nine hours and one weekly rest period of at least 45 hours during two consecutive weeks.
Importantly, they agreed that vehicles put into service after August 5, 2005, should be fitted with digital tachographs. The legislation covers vans of over 3.5 tonnes and passenger transport carrying nine or more people.
The new regulation has to be considered for a second time by the European Parliament before becoming law. Its effect will vary around the EU depending on current national laws or guidelines.
In the UK, the Freight Transport Association notes that although ‘a weekly driving limit is not specified in the (national) rules…it is 56 hours in practice.’
The approval of the EU legislation will make this a compulsory limit in Britain.
Other details agreed by ministers was that ‘competent authorities’ could temporarily immobilise a vehicle not complying with the legislation and withdraw, suspend or restrict a transport company’s or a driver’s licence. EU governments would also be able to punish infringements detected on their territories, even if the tachograph showed the offence had been committed in another country.
The legislation would enable member states to punish goods purchasers or sellers, if they pushed a van driver to break these working time rules.
Meanwhile, a related regulation agreed by the council will introduce spot-checks ensuring that by 2011 records of at least 3% of days worked by drivers are examined.