According to the Sun, “Rule reverse” 8 August 2013″, a “barmy EU rule which forces mechanics to carry out specialist driving training is to be scrapped” and attributes comments from the UK Road Minister Stephen Hammond that “ditching this rule will save businesses £29 million a year”.
Reducing red tape and cutting costs for strapped-for-cash businesses is to be applauded. But just slow down a minute, all is not what it seems.
Under the spotlight are EU rules which came into force in September 2006 (Directive 2003/59/EC). These apply in principle to all drivers engaged in the professional transport of goods and passengers, but with exemptions in case driving is not the main activity. For instance, Article 2c stipulates that the Directive shall not apply to drivers of vehicles undergoing road tests for technical development, repair or maintenance purposes, or of new or rebuilt vehicles which have not yet been put into service.
The driving force behind the media coverage is a a Department of Transport press release which also announces the UK Government “intends to look again at whether the scope of exemptions from driver CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) can be extended in respect of farmers”.
The Commission has always made clear that it is up to EU member states’ to assess if an exemption could be applied to a specific activity and to ensure that this does not lead to abuses, but it is difficult to predict what the government has in mind for agricultural workers.
However it is worth pointing out that under the EU rules most agricultural vehicles are likely to fall under Article 2a which already exempts vehicles with a maximum authorised speed not exceeding 45 km/h. Furthermore, Article 2g of the Directive exempts vehicles carrying material or equipment to be used by the driver in the course of his or her work, provided that driving the vehicle is not the driver’s principal activity, which might also apply to farmers in some circumstances.
Coincidentally, the Commission is considering a review of Directive 2003/59/EC and in July published a public consultation as a first step. Contributions are welcome by all interested parties until 25 October 2013.