The Working Time Directive (WTD), adopted in 2002 to improve the health and safety protection of persons performing road transport activity (amongst various other benefits including competition and road safety) has long been derided by some for its ‘practical difficulties’.

An exemption was made for self employed drivers but this expired in March 2009. Now, 3 years on the EC claims seven states “have failed to communicate to the commission appropriate measures taken to transpose the directive”, prompting the threat of judicial action.

The commission believe that states ignoring the directive, and in particular its weekly working time limits, would result in a distortion of competition against those member states which have properly applied the directive.

The countries the commission refers to include Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Poland Portugal and Spain and has called on them ‘to take appropriate measures’ to apply the WTD to self-employed road hauliers.

The French road haulage federation, the FNTR, has been quick to comment claiming that ‘there are practical difficulties’ in applying the directive. “It’s important to point out that the directive refers to working time and not driving time, where the same rules apply to all haulage firms” a spokesman added.

This new demand has led the UK government to act based on amendments coming into force of the Road Transport (Working Time) Regulations 2005. These amendments come into force on May 11th.

The RHA hopes VOSA will take a pragmatic approach. “There are more pressing enforcement issues, such as tachograph fiddling and diesel laundering” says Jack Simple, RHA Director of policy.

However, this is not the end of it. Keir Fitch, deputy head of the office of EC transport commissionaire Siim Kallas, recently told Commercial Motor that the argument may return. “We have no choice but to enforce the law. However, if member states find it does not work, we could go back to parliament with a new proposal”.