Social provisions

Within a broader framework of policy and regulatory efforts aiming at improving road safety since the sixties, the European Union (EU) has developed for the professional freight and passenger road transport sector a number of rules in areas such as working time, driving times and rest periods, training and access to the profession. The goal pursued is threefold:

  • firstly, to ensure that operators do not gain undue competitive advantages from the differences in the application of the rules among Member States;
  • secondly, to increase road safety by mainly combating fatigue of road transport drivers;
  • thirdly, to provide a set of rules which may guarantee correct working times and avoid unbearable working conditions for employees and self-employed persons in the road sector.

The domain of social rules for road transport relies upon the implementation and enforcement of a complex discipline that has been progressively set up by the EU since 1969:

  1. Transport of goods and of persons is notably regulated at EU level by Regulation (EC) n° 561/2006, which defines mainly how long professional drivers can drive, work and be available, and how long they have to rest.
  2. It has to be read together with Directive n° 2002/015/EC, regulating the organisation of working time of persons performing mobile road transport activities. This text must, from that date, be read with Regulation (EEC) n° 3820/85 as far as working time is concerned.
  3. The activities of the drivers, limited for road safety and social conditions reasons, have to be recorded in order to be possibly checked by control officers on the roadside as well as in transport companies’ premises.
  4. Both roadside and company checks are also covered, as far as the use of the tachograph is concerned, by Directive n° 2006/22/EC.
  5. The Council of Ministers adopted consequently Regulation (EEC) n° 3821/85, which introduced on a mandatorily basis an analogue tachograph in all vehicles operating in scope of Regulation (EEC) n° 3820/85 (since repealed by Regulation (EC) n° 561/2006). The technical specifications of this analogue tachograph are laid down in Annex 1 of this Regulation.
  6. But the analogue tachograph has rapidly been tampered with by transport operators and drivers, in such a large dimension that the objectives initially fixed by the Council which consisted in ensuring safety on EU roads and satisfactory social standards for professional drivers were put at risk.
  7. The Council of Ministers has then decided on 24 September 1998 to introduce a more tamper proof digital tachograph on EU roads through Council Regulation (EU) n° 2135/98, which amended Regulation (EEC) n° 3821/85.
  8. This Regulation (EC) n° 2135/98 defines the main obligations of Member States to introduce this new recording equipment in all new registered vehicles and the main obligations of transport operators and drivers when using it.
  9. In Article 1.11 of this Regulation, the Council then gave a mandate to a committee (CATP: Committee for Adaptation to Technical Progress) in order to adopt the technical requirements of the digital tachograph.
  10. These technical requirements have been adopted by the Commission on 13 June 2002, through a comitology procedure, and published in Regulation (EC) n° 1360/2002.
  11. Finally, it has to be taken into consideration that part of the journeys performed by EU drivers may be done partly or totally outside the EU territory, and that non EU drivers may performed journeys, partly or totally on the EU territory.
  12. Therefore, to also ensure that road safety would not be endangered in these circumstances and to ensure that minimum standards of fair competition could be respected between EU and non EU transport operators, an international agreement (called the European Agreement concerning the Work of Crews of Vehicles engaged in International road Transport and known as the AETR) has been adopted on 1 July 1970 under the auspices of the United Nations. 

The list of contracting parties to the AETR can be found here.