The Parliament’s Vote on Revised Driving License Rules Spells Disaster for the Sector

The Parliament’s Vote on Revised Driving License Rules Spells Disaster for the Sector

ETF: European Transport Worker's Federation — 2024-02-29

News from Brussels

The European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) is deeply troubled by the outcome of 28 February 2024’s vote in the European Parliament regarding revised rules for driving licenses. ETF is especially concerned about the proposal to require all EU Member States to allow 17-year-old lorry drivers to drive heavy goods vehicles.

The decision on minimum age requirements marks a significant setback in efforts to ensure road safety and prioritise the improvement of working conditions for drivers across Europe.

The current recommended minimum age for this category of vehicle in the EU is 21, though several countries allow 18-year-olds to drive HGVs under certain conditions. The European Transport Safety Council pointed out that research by the German Insurance Association (GDV) shows that HGV drivers aged 18-20 caused a much higher proportion of collisions resulting in personal injury than older HGV driver age groups.

The ETF views the vote as a disaster, as it fails to address the underlying issues plaguing the road transport industry. Instead of implementing measures to improve working conditions, the revised rules risk exacerbating existing challenges and putting all road users at greater risk.

Recent research conducted by the industry association IRU reports a shortage of 380,000 truck drivers in Europe, accounting for approximately 10% of the total demand. The shortage is expected to increase further in the foreseeable future.

A recent ETF study has brought to light a critical contradiction in the discourse surrounding the shortage of professional drivers. Contrary to common assumptions, the shortage does not stem from a lack of qualified workers but rather from a pervasive “high vacancy rate” driven by the unattractiveness of the profession.

The term “labour shortage” is being misused for the road transport sector. Strictly speaking, a labour shortage arises when the demand for workers who possess the required skills and are willing to work at a specific wage rate and in specific working conditions in a particular place and point in time exceeds the supply of workers available. Logically, labour shortages should be accompanied by mounting wages. A labour shortage should not be confused with a high vacancy rate, which is the share of vacancies out of all jobs. High vacancies can arise because of poor working conditions when skilled workers are not willing to undertake strenuous and badly paid jobs.

The study underscores the precarity and exploitative working conditions prevalent in the sector, exacerbating recruitment challenges. Despite detailed legislation within the Mobility Package aimed at improving standards, weak implementation and enforcement, and a rising trend of abusive practices and recruitment of third-country nationals in Central and Eastern European Member States persist.

By lowering the minimum age for obtaining driving licenses, the Parliament has overlooked the true causes of the problem. Rather than addressing the root issues of poor working conditions and inadequate pay, the revised rules prioritise short-term solutions that undermine the industry’s long-term sustainability.

The ETF emphasises the need for policymakers to prioritise the safety and well-being of drivers and road users. Instead of implementing measures that compromise safety and exacerbate existing challenges, the ETF calls for a comprehensive approach that addresses the root causes of the driver shortage and promotes fair transport.