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Wednesday, November 18, 1998 Published at 10:40 GMT


Truckers' anger at working restrictions

Truckers stuck in Kent as their European counterparts block ports

British truckers are to have their working hours capped at 60 per week under a new European Commission directive.

The BBC's Employment Correspondent Stephen Evans: The aim is to cut road deaths
European Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock was due to announce an amendment to the European Working Time Directive on Wednesday.

Currently, lorry drivers are exempt from the conditions of the directive.

And they say that restricting their working hours will result in increased costs to customers of the goods they transport.

British truckers accuse Mr Kinnock of "bowing to bully-boy tactics" from their European counterparts.

'Double whammy'

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) says the ruling will do nothing to improve safety or conditions.

It added that the Commission had conceded to demands by militant trade unions in Europe who had threatened to impose a "winter of discontent" across the Continent.

But commissioners point to statistics which suggest that tiredness in lorry and coach drivers is a factor in 2,000 road deaths in Europe every year.

[ image: Drivers are already restricted to working nine hours a day]
Drivers are already restricted to working nine hours a day
RHA spokesman Dan Hodges, said: "The Commission has delivered a double whammy to the haulage industry.

"Not only has it chosen to burden our members with unnecessary red tape and costs, but it has also given the impression to the more militant transport unions that their threats of widespread disruption have been successful.

"By being seen to bow to these bully boy tactics, the commission has unwittingly sent the message that might is right.

"The saddest thing is that these regulations will do nothing to improve safety or conditions within the industry.

"Drivers are already prevented from driving more than nine hours a day under existing regulations."

Mr Hodges said that the only exceptions to this were "cowboy" operators who would flout the new regulations as they did the old ones.

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