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Coach tour operators losing out in face of European legislation on driving and rest time

The decision taken by the EU legislators to change driving and rest time rules for coach drivers is taking a toll in particular on small and medium-sized coach tour operators, as costs have spiralled upwards as the Group of National Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Associations within the EU (ECTAA) stated. These operators are the bedrock of Europe’s coach tourism industry and urgently need a revision of the rest time rules.

ECTAA joined the plea of other industry associations, notably IRU, ETOA, IFTO, to reinstate the so called 12-day derogation, which was abandoned in the revision of the European legislation on driving and rest time rules in 2006. This derogation took account of the typical coach tour operation and allowed drivers engaged in occasional international coach tours to drive for up to 12 consecutive days before taking a weekly rest period.

Cost for coach tours longer than 6 days have shoot up since the regulatory changes have taken effect in April 2007, as coach operators had to employ additional drivers for tours, cover the subsistence and travel costs of the additional driver and make logistical arrangements.

In addition, the extra costs arising from the deletion of the 12-day derogation stand in no proportion to additional benefits for the customer or the drivers. Indeed, there is little to suggest that safety, which was the prime reason for abandoning the 12-day derogation, has increased in coach tourism, an industry that already prides itself for being the safest transport mode in tourism. Nor does it benefit drivers, who very often have to spend their rest time away from home and family.

ECTAA deplores the fact that these regulatory changes have had a disproportionate negative impact, in particular on small and medium-sized coach tour operators, who do not typically have the financial, human and logistical capacity to deal with hiring additional driver and dealing with re-planning of their coach itineraries.

Said Roman Skrabanek, Vice-President of ECTAA and owner of a coach tour operator: "At the end of the day it is European tourism and the customers who loose out the most not only in terms of higher prices but also in terms of fewer range and itineraries to choose from. The 12-day derogation must be reinstated to help this industry to survive and continue offering affordable, safe and environmentally friendly tourism."

The industry is hoping that the messages echoed from numerous industry associations will be heard by European institutions, including Transport Ministers, who are scheduled to meet on 7 April in the Transport Council.