ROAD TRANSPORT: COUNCIL AND PARLIAMENT REACH AGREEMENT ON DRIVING TIME.

 
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Tachographs.

Under the terms of the compromise, digital tachographs must be fitted in all lorries put on the road for the first time 20 days after publication of the new Regulation in the Official Journal of the European Union. Precisely when the obligation will become effective therefore remains somewhat vague. A joint declaration by the European Parliament and the Council nevertheless states that the two institutions will make every effort to ensure the text is published in the Official Journal by April 2006. Though no legal certainty, it is therefore fair to assume that the fitting of digital tachographs will become compulsory from about May 2006 (one practical consequence is likely to be a wave of registrations of new lorries before this deadline in order to escape the new rules).

The European Commission is clearly not satisfied on this point. In practice, so long as the new Regulation is not published, current deadlines will continue to apply, i.e. officially, August 5, 2005. The Commission agreed a few months ago to a "period of tolerance" up until January 1, 2006. The conciliation compromise will result in a significant overshoot of this deadline. The Commission is therefore legally entitled to launch infringement proceedings against those member states that are not ready. Jacques Barrot has already indicated that he will do precisely this. Letters of formal notice will therefore be sent out in January, the Commissioner warning that proceedings will be pursued in May if member states have still not fallen into line by then.

Driving and rest times.

The new legislation will bring significant changes to the current organisation of hauliers' driving and rest times (replacing the existing Regulation 3820/85/EEC). It goes without saying that it will have serious repercussions on road transport in the EU. It will, for example, limit the number of hours that drivers can spend behind the steering wheel on a weekly basis: in future a driver will be allowed to drive a maximum of 56 hours a week and no more than 90 hours over a two-week period compared to the possibility of being allowed to clock up 76 hours per week today. This clearly represents a major improvement on the existing legislation. The compromise also sets a compulsory daily rest time of nine hours (compared with the existing eight hours) and gives drivers the right to 45 hours' rest at least once every fortnight (a right which currently does not exist in most EU countries). The...

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