TODAY: The International Road Transport Union calls on the European Commission to stop countries imposing massive new weekly rest fines.
Plus, Luxembourg is told to raise its fuel taxes, flooding blocks roads on the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria, central east Brussels is blocked off this afternoon for an EU summit, drivers are warned to avoid Amsterdam this weekend, fatal accidents rise significantly on German autobahns and new environmentally friendly crash barriers are installed in a park in Portugal. Also, today’s trip tip, the Porsche 911’s digital speedo switches to read in kilometres per hour. Yours might too.
And, a roundup of recent news and views on driving in France, including new fuel that could damage your engine.
GIBRALTAR FRONTIER WATCH: another quiet day with delays peaking at 30mins at 18:00.
IRU CALLS ON EU TO STOP MASSIVE NEW WEEKLY REST FINES
Says countries flout law to protect domestic firms.
The International Road Transport Union (IRU) is calling on the European Commission and other authorities to stop countries imposing ‘disproportionate’ fines for drivers’ hour’s offences.
As of last Friday, 11 July, France imposed a €30,000 fine and a year’s imprisonment for drivers spending weekly rest periods inside their vehicles. Belgium has a similar law though the fine is €1,800. The Netherlands and Sweden have also recently tightened up their regulations.
The countries claim the new rules are an attempt to tackle ‘social dumping’, where foreign firms undercut local providers with lower labour standards. Some drivers, predominantly from Eastern Europe, are alleged to spend weeks and months effectively living in their vehicles to reduce costs.
However, the IRU says the countries involved are just using the law to protect their domestic firms which would be against EU rules.
IRU General Delegate to the EU, Michael Nielsen, says, ‘As EU legislation is unclear on weekly rest time in vehicle cabins and the fact that the EU does not consider it to be a serious infringement, these announced penalties are completely unacceptable. Member States need clear EU legislation and should enforce this in an efficient, non-discriminatory way through penalties that are proportionate to the level of infringement committed.’
The statement goes on to say, ‘The IRU views this as an indication that Member States are increasingly using enforcement to protect their national markets – practices which completely go against every principle of EU law.’
The new rules have proved controversial with drivers, many of whom have routinely slept in their cabs for weekly rest periods abroad for many years. One told @DriveEurope this week, ‘Well it looks like I’d better buy a tent!!! Cos that will be so much more safer and comfy.’
We have contacted the European Commission and are waiting for a response.
Also, the Dutch FNV union has reportedly made a formal complaint to the Transport Ministry over foreign drivers subcontracted to a major furniture retailer via an employment agency. The workers are allegedly paid just €420 per month, plus €1,300 ‘expenses’, compared to the €3,000 per month salary of an experienced local driver. The union also claims the drivers spend ‘weeks if not months’ living in their cabs.
roundup: AMSTERDAM. Major road works on the A10 ring road mean drivers are advised to avoid the city this weekend. Meanwhile the Piet Hein tunnel in the east is closed until 1 August for resurfacing work. LUXEMBOURG. The International Energy Agency has told Luxembourg to raise its famously low fuel taxes. A new IEA report says that, despite some progress, the Duchy is in danger of missing its Kyoto + EU emissions targets and that the low taxes ‘send the wrong message’. Unleaded 95 is selling for €1.362/l today, and diesel €1.192, 50c and 30c respectively lower than the neighbouring Netherlands, for instance, according to Fuel Prices Europe. GERMANY. Fatal autobahn accidents rose by over ten percent last year even as the overall figures fell reports the ETSC European Transport Safety Council. Furthermore, deaths are apparently 25% higher on derestricted sections than those with speed limits.
FRANCE. The Dutch @ANWB motoring club warns drivers that standard pump petrol these days is likely to be E10 – 10% ethanol – rather than the usual Euro95 (5% ethanol). E10 is unsuitable for some cars, even relatively recent models. If in doubt buy the – more expensive – Super Plus 98 instead. Meanwhile the price difference between motorway and local fuel can be as much as 12c per litre for diesel warns This Is French Life quoting an expose by consumer watchdog CLCV. It warns against filling up at stations on motorways in the Meuse, Marne, Loire, Corrèze or Franche-Comté. The Daily Telegraph’s Antony Peregrine comes up with some handy tips on driving in France including the good value CroqMalin menu available in service stations. Join Us in France have also released a podcast on the same subject. Finally, the French govt is aiming to help its auto makers steal a march on international competitors by allowing self-driving cars on the road as early as next year says The Connexion.