Coach federation open to talks on alcohol lock for drivers

Summary

The Belgian Federation of Coach Companies is considering a proposal by mobility minister Jacqueline Galant to install alcohol locks inside tour coaches

Incident last week

The Belgian Federation of Coach Companies (FBAA) has said it is prepared to discuss a proposal by federal mobility minister Jacqueline Galant to introduce an obligatory alcohol lock for coach drivers. The lock means the vehicle will not start unless the driver carries out a breath test that is negative for traces of alcohol.

The lock would be installed in private tour coaches belonging to companies based in Belgium. “Anyone who is zero-tolerance, as we are, cannot, on principle, claim to be against the alcohol lock,” commented FBAA director Yves Mannaerts. “We have to consider the matter seriously.”

The alcohol lock comes into force in France next week, and Galant has asked her ministry for a report on whether the idea could be adopted here. “They transport a lot of people,” she said. “The safety rules cannot be strict enough.”

At present in Belgium the lock is only used as a penalty imposed by magistrates on drink-drivers. It has been used in 25 cases since being introduced five years ago.

In test projects in the past, FTAA said, passengers became nervous on seeing their coach driver operating the lock. “They immediately assumed he had a drink problem,” said Mannaerts. “That stigma will need to be avoided.”

The federation is also concerned about cost. “Our French colleagues inform us that the cost of the installation and the temporary down-time comes to around €3,000 per coach,” said Mannaerts. “That will obviously have to be on the agenda of any talks.”

In related news, two employees of the sports service in Sint-Gillis-Waas, East Flanders, questioned a coach driver earlier this week who was scheduled to transport 60 children to the theme park Bobbejaanland in Limburg. He appeared to be drunk, according to the leader and other witnesses, and eventually drove off alone. The police are now looking for the driver, who has disappeared.

Photo: Felix O/Wikimedia