Working time rules will force drivers off the road

Employers in the haulage industry could face serious staffing problems when
the Working Time Directive for mobile workers, which was formally adopted last
week, is introduced in the UK.

Ruth Pott, head of employment at the Road Haulage Association, said the
directive will have major repercussions for companies in the sector.

It is being implemented under two separate deadlines in August 2003 and
early 2005. She explained the 2005 deadline will create the biggest headache
for employers because drivers will be forced to work a maximum of 48 hours a
week.

Currently drivers work 60 to 65-hour weeks and Pott said the restriction
will prove costly for employers and employees.

"This will pose enormous problems and many employers will face a 30 per
cent shortfall in labour. Drivers will not be happy because it will lead to a
big reduction in their gross pay," she said.

Pott said this driver shortage will be exaggerated by the vocational
training directive, to be introduced in 2004, which will make qualifying for an
HGV licence a much longer and more expensive process.

Owner-drivers’ working hours will not be hit by legislation until at least
2009 and Pott thinks many more UK drivers may become self-employed as a result.

The RHA is concerned there could be unfair competition from countries such
as Spain and Portugal where there is a much higher proportion of owner-drivers.
It is not convinced all European countries will enforce the directive as
strictly as the UK.

Under the 2005 directive, driving at night will also be restricted to 10
hours in any 24-hour period.

By Ben Willmott

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