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Status Report, Vol. 37, No. 6 | June 8, 2002 Subscribe

European truckers to work much fewer hours in a week

Mercedes-Benz media

For years European truck drivers have been limited to fewer hours on the road per day than U.S. truckers. Soon the work week in Europe will be shorter, too. The European Union has instituted a 48-hour work week for truck drivers, while U.S. drivers can work up to 70 hours during 8 days. New restrictions also have been adopted for night drivers in E.U. countries, who will be limited to 10 hours of work per 24 hours.

The new rules are intended to improve safety by reducing driver fatigue while also ensuring a better quality of life for drivers. Trucking companies in E.U. countries must follow the rules by March 2005. Self-employed drivers have until 2009.

European truckers generally are limited to 9 hours of driving per day, compared with U.S. truckers who may drive up to 16 hours per day. A proposal by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to modernize the U.S. rules, which haven't been substantially changed in 40 years, remains stalled (see "Truck safety in the balance as hours of service are considered," Oct. 21, 2000).

Another important European trucking rule expected soon will mandate digital tachographs — tamperproof electronic recording devices that help enforce compliance with driving hours. It's expected that all new trucks will be required to have such devices by 2004. Europe currently requires mechanical tachographs to track driving time. In the United States, the requirement is for handwritten logbooks, which are falsified so regularly that some truckers call them "comic books."

E.U. rulesU.S. rules
Daily driving limits9 hours per day; twice a week, may drive up to 10 hours10 hours after 8 off duty; up to 16 hours per 24-hour period (10 driving + 8 off + 6 driving = 24 hours)
Weekly driving limits56 hours; 90 hours in 2 weeksNo rules comparable to E.U
Night shift provisionsDaily work time not to exceed 10 hours if night work is includedNo rules comparable to E.U.
Weekly work limits (driving and nondriving)Average 48 hours in 7 days or up to 60 hours if, over a 4-month period, the 48-hour limit is not exceeded60 hours in 7 days or 70 hours in 8 days
BreaksDriving limited to 4.5 hours at a stretch, followed by break of at least 45 min.; work time (driving and nondriving) limited to 6 hours without a break; if working 6-9 hours, break must be at least 30 min. (45 min. if working more than 9); may divide break into 15-min. intervalsNo rules comparable to E.U.
Daily off-duty requirementsAverage 11 consecutive off-duty hours of every 24; extended to 12 if off-duty time is broken into 2 or 3 periods, which must include an 8-hour consecutive stretch (rest averaged over 1-week period); minimum off-duty time is 9 consecutive hours, which may occur only 3 times per week; vehicle must be stationary during off-duty time8 hours off duty before driving 10 hours (off-duty time can be broken into 2 periods); if driving as a team, vehicle may be moving while 1 driver is off duty in sleeping berth
Minimum time off between work weeksAverage 45 consecutive hours between 2 consecutive work weeks (time off averaged over 4 weeks); minimum 24 consecutive hours between work weeksNo rules comparable to E.U.
Method of paying drivers
May not pay per mile driven or by amount of goods hauledUsually paid per mile or by percentage of revenue
Monitoring for compliance with rules
Tachographs (mechanical recorders of driving hours and speed) required; new rules are expected that will require digital tamper-resistant recorders in new truck rigs by 2004Drivers required to keep handwritten logbooks (often falsified); automatic recorders permitted but used by few carriers to monitor driving hours

Notes: New provisions in E.U. rules are shown in blue. E.U. rules apply to vehicles weighing more than 7,700 pounds (local buses aren't covered). By March 2005, E.U. countries must reduce weekly work to 48 hours, limit work time for night shift drivers, and mandate specified breaks or ensure that carriers and unions have reached agreements that will result in compliance. Self-employed drivers have until March 2009 to comply. U.S. rules apply to drivers of vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds. Logbooks aren't required for drivers operating within 100 miles of normal work location who return to the same location within 12 hours.

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