Two-thirds of European truck and bus drivers regularly feel tired behind the wheel, survey finds
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Two-thirds of European truck and bus drivers regularly feel tired behind the wheel, survey finds

Credit: Belga

Around two-thirds of truck and bus drivers regularly feel tired at the wheel, according to the findings of a survey of 2,800 professional drivers across Europe by the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF).

Of the drivers surveyed, about a quarter said they had fallen asleep at the wheel at least once in the last 12 months (30% of truck drivers, 24% of bus drivers). However, the unions point out that the real figure could be much higher, as drivers prefer not to report such incidents for fear of possible repercussions on their jobs.

In the context of the study, the ETF is calling for better pay for truckers.

“We have been asking for years that the salaries paid to drivers correspond to the required qualifications,” said Tom Peeters, vice-president of the ETF’s road section.

“A trained driver, who has to undergo further training, still earns less in Belgium than a cleaner. It is time that Europe also recognised, via the wage package, that a professional driver is an essential link in the economy.”

Accidents involving heavy vehicles tend to have more serious consequences for those involved. In 2016 (the most recent statistics from the EU CARE database according to the unions), 4,002 people were killed in accidents with trucks and 594 in accidents with buses in Europe.

Limited and inadequate rest, long working hours and low wages are behind the driving fatigue, according to the ETF, which says that drivers are forced to work long hours to earn a decent salary at the end of the month.

Around 88% of truck drivers and 60% of bus drivers work more than 40 hours a week. In addition, much of the working time is not recorded due to incorrect use of the tachograph, which means that the working day is spread over 12 or 14 hours, the unions point out.

The tachograph is a device that records driving times and rest periods by the driver of a heavy vehicle.

The use of a tachograph (which is mandatory for heavy vehicles intended for transporting goods or vehicles transporting over eight passengers, per the rules of the European Commission) is intended to prevent driver’s fatigue and to guarantee fair competition and road safety.

The lack of “comfortable” parking spaces also prevents drivers from getting a proper rest, with stress and noise also being obstacles to proper recovery, according to the ETF.

The federation also made a number of demands of European politicians, including calls for more controls and a “well-functioning European Labour Authority (ELA).”

The Brussels Times