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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 February 2006, 17:32 GMT
EU gets tougher on lorry drivers
Drivers must rest for at least 45 minutes every 4.5 hours
The European Parliament has approved a law designed to tighten up on the number of hours coach and lorry drivers spend behind the wheel.

From 1 May, new vehicles must be fitted with digital tachographs, which are more accurate and harder to falsify than older, analogue versions.

The number of checks on drivers will also be increased from 2008.

Coach drivers will be obliged to take a break after six days on the road, instead of the current maximum of 12.

Higher costs

The law is expected to get final approval from EU governments in the next few weeks.

The European Commission has again ignored common sense and gone ahead with the 'bureaucrat knows best' approach
Philip Bradbourn MEP
It will not affect vans or most bus routes, but it will affect coaches and lorries from non-EU countries when they travel on roads inside the EU.

Labour MEP Gary Titley described the law as a major step forward for road safety.

But Stephen Heard, of the UK Confederation of Passenger Transport, said it would push the price of coach tours up and that some could become unviable.

This would be harmful to family coach operators working on tight margins, he said, and to their customers - usually older and less affluent people.

Conservative MEP Philip Bradbourn said the legislation was "another nail in the coffin for small and medium-sized transport companies".

"The European Commission has again ignored common sense and gone ahead with the 'bureaucrat knows best' approach," he said.

Serious infringements

The regulations simplify maximum working periods and minimum rest periods for lorry and coach drivers.

Bus and lorry drivers work to the point of exhaustion
Nikolaos Sifunakis MEP
They may not drive for more than nine hours a day, 56 hours a week or 90 hours a fortnight.

They must have uninterrupted rest of at least 11 hours per day - or one period of nine hours and another of three hours - and must rest for at least 45 minutes every 4.5 hours.

The amount of time an employee spends driving to and from work to start a shift also counts as work time.

Penalties are left to member states to decide, but the regulation lists "serious infringements" including exceeding the maximum driving time limits by 20% or more, and failing to reach the daily and weekly rest period by 20% or more.

Greek Socialist MEP Nikolaos Sifunakis welcomed the legislation, saying: "Bus and lorry drivers work to the point of exhaustion. We must give them the opportunity to drive less."

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