Coach fight reignites

Australia could go down the ‘bus lumped with truck’ path that Europe’s coach drivers will protest in Belgium next week

Coach fight reignites
Coach fight reignites

By David Goeldner | October 14, 2011

In the lead up to Europe’s biggest bus event, Busworld Kortrijk, coach drivers will protest a European Parliament ruling dating back to 2006 that organisers claim has damaged the coach industry.

Regulation EG 561/2006 has forced coach drivers to adopt the same driving and resting time hours that apply to truck drivers, which Busworld organisers say has jeopardised coach driving jobs and chased away tourists from coach travel.

A statement released this week says the regulation abolished the exceptions that were common for coaches, placing the coach travel industry on a par with road haulage in terms of permitted driving hours.

Organisers claim the new regulation has made it almost impossible to indulge in relaxed and smooth-paced sightseeing tourism in which passengers alight at frequent intervals, have lunch in a restaurant around midday and enjoy their hotel in the evening.

"This failure to even as much as consider the realities of coach travel has made a lot of trips virtually impossible," a Busworld media statement says.

"It is jeopardizing the jobs of drivers and chasing away a section of travellers into the arms of air travel and travel by private car.

"In addition, it also serves to imperil the profitability of the sector."

Busworld organisers are labelling the regulation a ‘blunder’.

During the Busworld Show, which starts on October 21, a campaign will be relaunched to have the regulation overturned.

Testimonials from drivers and coach operators will be collected at the show and compiled in a ‘black book’ which will be handed to European Union politicians.

Australia could be headed down the same path which has given rise to the European action.

Earlier this year submissions were called by the National Transport Commission in response to the creation of a National Heavy Vehicle Regulator which, like the European Union, could impose similar driving and rest period rules for truck and coach drivers.

BusNSW Executive Director Darryl Mellish had earlier expressed concern that while the uniformity of regulations between states might be a good thing, the bus and coach sector has unique differences where the truck transport industry has no engagement.

The view from BusNSW and the Bus Industry Confederation is that truck transport fatigue management regulations – similar to the European example – may be imposed on the bus and coach sector.

The argument against applying the same truck driving work hours rules to bus and coach is that Australia’s bus industry is already well-managed in terms of fatigue, and that the industry is regulated through respective state operator accreditation requirements.

A uniform set of driving hour regulations across Australia for both truck and bus could see the bus industry lobbying for exemptions after the rules have been mandated.

Busworld’s trade show and seminars at Kortrijk in Belgium is one of the world’s largest bus events with several new product launches planned for this year’s show from October 21 to 26.

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