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The benefits of more flexible driving time regulations

Mar 18, 2014
In January 2014, the Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Trafi) published the results of a study to assess the effects of regulations that specify driving times and rest periods in Finland's road transport industry. The conclusions suggest that a more relaxed approach would have major benefits for drivers, their companies and their customers.


Approximately 3,000 drivers and transport operators participated via an online survey. The results indicate that the current regulations raise drivers’ levels of stress and urgency, and that operators view the regulations as having a negative influence on the efficiency and punctuality of the services they provide. Although the distances travelled by removals vehicles tend to be relatively low when compared with those engaged in general haulage, the results make interesting reading and call into question the wisdom of current regulations.

The study’s objectives were to evaluate the effects of the current driving time and rest period regulations, and to collect opinions regarding enforcement and the need for added flexibility in implementation. It was conducted by the infrastructure specialist Sito in collaboration with the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH).

Drivers and operators who responded to the survey held very similar views on the need for added flexibility in connection with driving times and rest periods. While the current regulations specifying the frequency and length of daily and weekly rest periods are considered adequate, both groups expressed the opinion that greater flexibility and more choice should be permitted in the way the regulations are implemented in practice.

The study results show that a number of benefits could be expected from allowing additional flexibility, including the adoption of more efficient driving habits, maintaining schedules, reductions in levels of urgency and stress, reduced driving speeds, improved operational punctuality and lower costs.

Respondents did not consider that allowing increased flexibility in the daily driving time and rest period regulations would result in an increase in road accidents or affect either the demand for professional drivers or the availability of suitable personnel.

Approximately half of the drivers who responded considered that the driving time and rest period regulations are a positive element in their work. More than 50% of drivers, however, regard the regulations and their monitoring as time-consuming, as a factor that increases the stress they experience when working, and as limiting their freedom to choose where they take their meals.

Operators responding to the survey expressed the view that the driving time and rest period regulations and their enforcement reduce efficiency and punctuality, increase the number of drivers required, and reduce profitability.

Of the responding drivers, 39% had received one or more penalties in the previous three years for failing to comply with the driving time and rest period regulations. The commonest offences were driving times that were too long, daily rest periods that were too short, and failure to observe the required rest stops. 

Issues reported as hindering compliance with driving time and rest period regulations included tight schedules, delays and problems connected with loading and unloading, demands made by management or customers, poor road conditions, inadequate road maintenance in winter and a lack of places to stop, rest and park.

 








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