Recent amendments to the Working Time Directive have caused much concern in the freight industry. The intention of the regulations is to improve the health and safety of workers and increase the overall quality, safety and efficiency of the sector.
However, many companies and workers fear it will have a negative impact as it will affect areas such as driver resources and pay, customer costs and company margins.
The legislation is being introduced in phases over the next two years. Any company that operates or uses a transportation, logistics or supply chain provider will be affected as the legislation is relevant to all EU drivers, warehouse and office staff. The directive aims to ensure drivers in particular work fewer hours and have longer breaks. I think this is a case of the European Parliament interfering once again without clearly thinking through the practicalities.
There appears to be total confusion within the industry not just about the effects but also how to implement it. There are many employees that are happy to work more than the stipulated 48 hours per week and I foresee a majority of workers being asked to sign the opt-out agreement so companies are able to meet customer demands.
The major worry is that the ruling will restrict the geographical area companies will realistically be able to operate in. For instance, if a driver delivers to Scotland, he will now have to take a vastly increased break compared to current working practices. This means another driver needs to accompany him to drive the vehicle back, otherwise customer delivery times will have to be extended. So logistics companies will be caught in the middle – they will have to comply with the regulations, which means employing more drivers, but that means an extra cost to the customer. If this becomes a reality it will not be welcomed by anyone. Again if employers are to find more drivers to meet delivery deadlines, where will they come from? The industry is already facing a driver shortage.
I think the best way to look at the Directive is to see it as an opportunity to take a hard look at business processes. If both manufacturers and transportation companies collaborate and decrease inefficiencies, it could end up being a blessing in disguise.
Phil Cocking is UK managing director of supply chain solutions provider, Walsh Western International