The International Road Transport Union (IRU) has declared its support for European Institutions’ efforts to customise driving and rest time rules for the coach tourism sector.
The IRU – together with the European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Associations (ECTAA) and the European Tourism Association (ETOA) – said safety must come first for coach tourism.
Safety is paramount to the industry, says the union, as demonstrated by the sector’s high safety record; according to Eurostat figures, fatalities resulting from traffic accidents involving buses and coaches have halved since 2006.
Matthias Maedge, General Delegate, Brussels, said: “Coach tourism is a business delivered by people for people.
“Road safety is not something that can be negotiated and every traffic accident is one too many.
“Specific and improved rules for coach tourism operators and drivers would lift barriers to a better service.”
The union’s call for a more flexible approach to weekly rest periods and the 12 day derogation – currently being proposed at institutional level – is based on this pattern.
According to the IRU, there is no evidence to suggest that this approach would lead to increased driver fatigue or accident risk – but greater flexibility in managing daily driving times could, it argues, lead to less stress being placed on the driver.
Matthias continued: “We are pleased to see the European Institutions recognise the unique characteristics of this sector.
“The social dialogue with trade unions should continue, with conclusions based on factual evidence and mutual understanding that safety comes first for all parties involved.
“Employers in road transport have mutual interests with drivers. We need each other.”
Tim Fairhurst, Director of Policy at ETOA, added: “Coach tourism drives growth from Europe’s key long-haul origin markets, whose visitors typically visit more than one country.
“The new proposals would allow greater fleet efficiency without compromising safety. The changes are timely and welcome.”
Merike Hallik, President of ECTAA, concluded: “The wellbeing and safety of drivers and passengers are top priorities for our sector. The specific rules needed for the good operation of our industry are by no means a threat to safety.”