Europa ensures rest for drivers
In the world of road transport and the rest periods applicable to drivers, the rules have not changed for the moment. The regulation in force until now on rest periods is REGULATION (EC) No. 561/2006 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 15 March 2006.
So then, what has happened?
Let’s take a look back in order to try and understand what is happening in the world of road transport.
At present, the applicable legislation defines a series of intervals of maximum driving times, as well as minimum periods of daily and weekly rest. But, let’s focus on the latter, weekly rest periods, as they are what has been in the news over the last year.
In the regulation, weekly rest is defined as the period in which the driver can freely dispose of their time. This period of rest must begin before the end of the sixth day of consecutive work since the previous period of weekly rest.
And…how much time to drivers have for rest?
Although it is true that, in compliance with some requirements, weekly rest can sometimes last between 24 and 45 hours (reduced weekly rest); ordinary weekly rest has to last for at least 45 hours.
And… where should the rest be taken?
Aha! That is the crux of the matter.
“Every law has a loophole”
The aforementioned regulation outlines the following: Where a driver chooses to do this, daily rest periods and reduced weekly rest periods away from base may be taken in a vehicle, as long as it has suitable sleeping facilities for each driver and the vehicle is stationary.
Consequently, from this text it must be deducted that ordinary weekly rest periods cannot be taken in the cabin of the lorry. They must be taken in suitable places that guarantee the rest of the drivers, and must comply with minimum comfort and hygiene requirements. That is to say, hotels, hostels, etc.
Due to the fact that the regulation did not textually cite what the ideal place is for taking this type of rest periods, there were a substantial number of drivers who took their rest periods of more than 45 hours in the beds or bunk beds in vehicles.
Thus, last year in May, the European Union presented a proposal to amend the current regulation. Among other aspects, it features a paragraph which explicitly prohibits taking the regular weekly rest periods in vehicles. Also, it includes the obligation of the employer to provide the driver with suitable accommodation, in the event that the latter cannot take the weekly rest period of more than 45 hours in their home.
“You should learn from other people’s mistakes”
In Belgium, following the implementation of the royal decree that prohibited taking rest periods of over 45 hours in the cabin, in August 2014, the Belgian transport company, Vaditrans, lodged an appeal with the Raad van State (Council of State of Belgium) to annul said royal decree. The latter requested clarification of the regulation from the CJEU (Court of Justice of the European Union) with the aim of finding out if the regulation prohibits the imposition of sanctions in these cases.
In its ruling in December 2017, the CJEU ruled that the actions taken by the Belgian Government were legal. It also reminded the other Member States that they themselves must define the appropriate sanctions for employers who breach the regulation, and also establish measures to ensure that the sanctions are applied.
Therefore, if any State is “free” of sanctions, it is only a matter of time. The days are numbered for ordinary weekly rest periods in cabins.