Polish and Hungarian haulage groups contact European Commission over weekly rest checks in France

Polish and Hungarian haulage groups contact European Commission over weekly rest checks in France

trans.info — 2023-05-31

Land transportation

Readers may recall that the Commission ruled that drivers need not provide documentation to prove that their weekly rest has or had been spent in suitable accommodation outwith the cabin.

Therefore, if a driver simply stands firm and maintains that he or she did not spend a past weekly rest in the cabin, the authorities cannot issue any form of punishment.

However, if a driver is unaware of this, or in the process of being checked admits to an offence, then fines can be issued – just as has been in the case of Sweden recently. Fines can also be issued if a driver is caught in the act of spending their weekly rest in the cabin at the time of the inspection.

The aforementioned joint letter, signed by TTLA, NiT Hungary, Polska Unia Transportu, Stowarzyszenie Polskich Przewożników we Francji – Association Des Transportuers Polonais, and Move Expert, appears to suggest that French inspectors are taking advantage of drivers’ lack of knowledge of the rules by extoring oral admissions of violations.

The signatories have thus requested that The Commission provide a further clarification on the way the rules are policed.

The letter can be read below in full:

„We, the undersigned organisations, urge you therefore to take all necessary actions to ensure that the French controlling practices are in line with EU law and follow the EU guidelines and recommendations.

We are aware, that the Commission has already taken some important steps including publication of the Note on enforcement practices of Article 8 (8) of Regulation (EC) No 561/2006 on the ban to take regular weekly rest periods in a vehicle. Unfortunately, we have not observed any changes in the way controls are executed by the French authorities.

We therefore believe that further initiatives are needed from the European Commission and European Labour Authority. In the recently published Note the European Commission confirms, that “nothing prevents the national authorities from issuing a fine” on the basis of an oral admission of the driver, if legislation in Member States recognises this as valid proof.

However, the example of France shows, that in most of these cases, drivers do not understand or do not receive a full interpretation of the request during roadside control and that a penal procedure is opened directly, without requesting supporting documents from the operator. We therefore believe that there is need for common European recommendations with regards to oral admission.

As pointed out above, drivers or employers can be fined for non-compliance with the prohibition of taking the regular weekly rest time (or rest of more than 45 hours taken in compensation) in the vehicle when the drivers are caught having a regular weekly rest inside the vehicle at the time of control. However, the practice shows, that this provision is hijacked by the controlling authorities in France. They seem to use all means to extract signed confessions from the drivers. Such actions must stop immediately.

We believe that a unified controlling practice all around the EU would provide transport operators with necessary legal clarity and improve enforcement of EU rules according to Mobility Package I.”

In a LinkedIn post that included the letter, lawyer François Nicolas Wojcikiewicz, who represents Polish hauliers operating in France, described the roadside checks of the French authorities as “illegal”.