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European drivers drive 1980 hours a year.
The yearly number of hours driven by an international lorry driver ranges from 1,540 in France to 2,025 in Lithuania, with figures in the region of 1,980 hours being very common. These hours are perfectly in keeping with EU legislation.
The hourly cost of international driving therefore ranges from €8 per hour for a Bulgarian haulier to more than €33 per hour for his Belgian counterpart; in other words the difference between the highest and lowest costs is four-fold. Between these two extremes, an average hourly driving cost of €10 per hour for Eastern European hauliers is very common. This represents a three-fold difference with the middle-of-the-road figure in Western Europe.
The annual mileage covered by an international driver varies from 107,000km for French drivers to more than 140,000 for their Bulgarian counterparts, which again is perfectly within the law.
The cost per kilometre of an international driver therefore ranges from 11 to 48 euro cents per kilometre.
The gross salary of an international lorry driver varies within Europe from €300 to €3,300 per month. There is therefore an eleven-fold difference between the highest and lowest of the total wages (including all components) subject to social security contributions and income tax.
Taking all these aspects into account, the total annual cost of an international lorry driver ranges from €16,000 for a Bulgarian haulier to €56,000 for a Belgian haulier.
As regards terms of pay, the most common practice is to pay a rate per kilometre, of around 9 euro cents/km, on top of a fixed basic salary starting at €300/month in some countries This variable component can also take the form of a bonus per country crossed or per journey completed.
It is worth pointing out the unusual situation in France, as it has a major impact on productivity. In the first instance, it is compulsory to base drivers' wages on the hours read from the tachometer. The CNR surveys found that this practice was not observed anywhere else in Europe. Secondly, France has additional regulations, such as the principle of service time, on top of a body of EU legislation which operators in all countries already find too heavy and complicated. This means that "availability time", which is strictly counted as work in France, has an impact on potential working hours and driving time capacity. This is one of the main reasons why annual driving time in France is the lowest in Europe.
The daily allowances are usually set according to the country they are travelling through. In Eastern Europe, the rates set for travel to Western Europe are usually high, sometimes as much as €54 per day. A Czech driver, for example, will receive €45 per day when going through France or Germany, rising to €50 per day if travelling through Luxembourg or Scandinavia. Bulgaria imposes a minimum allowance of €27 per business day spent abroad in any EU country, with tax exemptions up to double that amount (€54 per day) permitted at the company's discretion. In practice, the allowances we observed are in the region of €42 per day for the typical profile surveyed.
Romania has a single rate of €35 per day for travel anywhere in the EU, but with the unusual feature that it is payable for any day the driver is on duty, even when not driving. It therefore covers weekends off spent out of the country, which are very frequent. Over a 7-day week spent abroad in which 5 days are worked, the rate is therefore equivalent to €49 per working day.
The French RFT sector has one of the highest daily rates in Europe, at €66 per 24hrs spent abroad. However, it is now very rare for French lorry drivers to do international work and the impact is therefore limited.
Germany stands out for its practice of relatively low allowance rates, especially for domestic work, at €24 per day. In the Eastern states, this rate for domestic work appears to have become the only rate many companies pay in practice as they seek to reduce their costs. Luxembourg's rate is even lower, at €23 per day spent abroad.
The total monthly amount of travel allowances in Western Europe was found to vary between €400 per month in Luxembourg and Eastern Germany to almost €800 in France, Belgium and Portugal and €900 in Italy.
In Spain and Eastern European countries, this component is worth around €1,000 per month. Hungary is an exception in the east, with allowances at around €640 per month. However, on top of the allowances, drivers receive a "green driving" bonus, which brings them up to a figure similar to other countries in the region.
As seen above, travel allowances are the highest in countries with the lowest salaries. At first sight, this might be viewed as wage-matching device. However, where these travel allowances account for the majority of the overall wage and are higher in absolute terms than those paid in countries with high wages, the issue of social dumping could be raised.
Are the living expenses of a driver from one of Europe's poorest countries really €54 per day when travelling with his sleeper berth in Germany or Luxembourg, while his local counterparts make do with €24 or €23 per day?
Perhaps the intention is not to reimburse expenses actually incurred, but more to supplement the driver's wages, as judged by the European Union Court of Justice. In its Ruling of 12 February 2015, the court ruled that the daily allowance paid to travelling workers is not intended to reimburse expenses they actually incur while on a trip, but is a special allowance for working away and is part of the minimum wage. However, if it is part of their salary, why does it not contribute to the social welfare funds?
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