Driving and resting time rules of driver performing international transport in the EU are governed by regulation (EC) No 561/2026, that has been revised as part of Mobility Package I. During the political discussion it became obvious, that these rules will have to be adapted to the specificities of the passenger transport – the way occasional bus and coach drivers perform The European Commission has promised to come up with a relevant legislative proposal. Such a proposal for revised driving and resting time rules has been published in May 2023 and is currently proceed within the European Parliament and the Council.
What may change
The changes proposed by the Commission aim to better reflect the nature of occasional bus and coach services. According to the Commission, drivers in this sector “have a different work rhythm compared to those in freight or regular passenger transport due to high seasonality and varying driving distances depending on tourists activities. This kind of service generally involves less driving time during the day than freight transport or regular bus services. Drivers also usually sleep in hotels, and seldom drive at night. Moreover, they need to accommodate unplanned and prompt passenger requests in terms of additional stops, changes of routs or changes of schedule”.
The Commission has therefore proposed to allow bus and coach drivers performing such occasional services to distribute their breaks and rest periods more flexibly.
The Commission is proposing three main changes comparing to current driving and resting time rules:
- Breaks: drivers shall be allowed to split their breaks (of a minimum 45 minutes for 4,5 hours of driving) into two periods of minimum 30 and 15 minutes, or into three periods of 15 minutes each. This will help them to take breaks more flexibly and at convenient times. Current rules only allow drivers to split these 45 minutes breaks into 15 minutes first and 30 minutes later (but not the other way round).
- Daily rest periods: drivers shall be allowed to postpone the start of their daily rest period by 1 hour when the total daily driving period for that day does not exceed 7 hours, or postpone it by 2 hours when the total daily driving period does not exceed 5 hours. These derogations will only be possible once during a trip of 8 days or more. The new rules will not change the duration of the regular daily rest period, which remains at a minimum 11 consecutive hours within 24 hours.
- Weekly rest periods: the rules for occasional passenger transport services, that take place solely within a single country will be aligned with the rules for international services, allowing drivers to postpone the weekly rest period for up to 12 consecutive days. This is already possible for international occasional passenger transport, to the disadvantage of operators of domestic services. The conditions to use 12-day derogation will remain the same: the driver has to take a regular weekly rest period before the trip (min 45 hours) and two weekly rest periods after the trip.
It is important to notice, that the Commission proposal does not introduce any changes to the minimum duration of breaks and rest periods and to maximum driving times.
State of play
The proposal put forward by the European Commission is currently discussed by Member States as well as within the European Parliament. Not everybody however is willing to accept changes in driving and resting time rules of occasional bus and coach drivers. There is a visible opposition from left political groups in the European Parliament towards more flexible resting conditions. Greens have even tabled an amendment calling to reject the whole proposal. Many MEPs argue, that breaks of 15 minutes are too short to offer a real possibility to rest therefore they want to limit the flexibility.
IRU representing European transport operators have welcomed the proposal to revise existing driving and resting time rules. IRU believes, that additional flexibility is needed to reflect the specific working conditions of occasional bus and coach drivers. It is also calling to digitalize journey forms in order to facilitate enforcement of new rules- this has been taken up by many MEPs. However ETF, representing transport trade unions, believes that current driving and resting time rules have the potential to guarantee a decent work environment in road passenger transport and there is no reason to revise them. ETF has been calling therefore since a long time on the European Commission to reconsider its proposal, prioritizing the safety of passengers and drivers alike.
For the time bring it is difficult to foresee when these changes may come into force. This will depend on the legislative process, which due to European Parliament elections in 2024, may be lengthy.