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French Truckers Step Up Blockade as Talks Over Traffic Fines Falter

July 04, 1992|From Reuters

PARIS — Angry truckers vowed Friday to intensify their stranglehold on French roads after talks failed to settle a dispute over penalties for traffic violations that has stranded thousands of tourists and disrupted supplies.

They said the five-day-old blockade would be stepped up since talks with the government had not solved the conflict over a new point system that penalizes drivers for serious traffic offenses.

"We have decided to reinforce existing roadblocks and set up new ones," a spokesman for the Workers' Force trade union said.

Thousands of trucks parked across roads and highways, including the north-south gateway to Mediterranean resorts, have stranded foreign vacationers and snarled supplies to industry and supermarkets.

"This is going to get worse. Our drivers are determined," the spokesman said.

The Transport Ministry, which sought to unblock the roads before the weekend rush, declined to comment. The union spokesman said that truckers will call on Paris taxi drivers, who staged a one-day strike against the new point system last month, to back their protest.

Groups of truckers, often acting independently of each other, have set up more than 100 roadblocks across France.

The government has refused to hold back on the introduction of the new driving offense penalty system. Under the system, drivers who accumulate a maximum of six penalty points will lose their licenses and have to wait six months to retake their driving tests.

Professional drivers fear that the system will rapidly drive them off the road. They assert that they risk more penalties because they drive more than ordinary motorists, and they demand special treatment.

The government hopes the system will reduce France's highway death toll, which was 9,600 last year for a population of 56 million. U.S. highway deaths in 1990 numbered 46,300 for a population of more than 248 million.

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