The self-employed avoid WTD regs

Attempts to bring owner-drivers under the Working Time Directive have faced a further setback with the European Parliament's Transport Committee rejecting a fresh proposal to include them.

The directive has been under review since last year, with the Employment Committee leading on the matter.

Today, the Transport Committee voted on proposals presented by its rapporteur (sponsor), MEP Said El Khadraoui.

As well as including self-employed drivers, he also proposed extending drivers' hours regulations to business vehicles under 3.5 tonnes and setting up a European information exchange system for working time data.

The vote on the draft opinion was split 20-20, plus one abstention and El Khadraoui agreed to withdraw his report.

Many MEPs have been at loggerheads with the European Commission since last year. The introduction of the Road Transport Directive in 2005 was dependent on owner-drivers being granted a derogation until March 2009.

The EC now believes it is impractical to police the working time of self-employed drivers. It wants to focus on the false self-employed, such as drivers who are not free to organize their own work; whose income does not depend on profits made and who cannot work with several customers.

It also wants to redefine 'night work', so that the definition only applies if work has been carried out for at least two hours within the period of 00.00 to 07.00.

At present, 'night work' is any work carried out in that period.

"We support the EC's proposals," says Chris Yarsley, European affairs manager, Freight Transport Association. "We do not support restrictions on vehicles under 3.5 tonnes. The proposal on night work gives drivers greater flexibility. If you get caught on a motorway you won't automatically slip into night work when something unexpected happens."

The Employment Committee is due for another vote on the review of the Road Transport Directive. It is then likely to come before a plenary session of the European Parliament in May.