Thursday, July 17, 2014

Road Haulage Rest Break Changes are Protectionist Measure Against Foreign Freight Drivers

Uproar at 'Unjustified Penalties' Including EUR 30,000 Fines and Imprisonment by French Authorities
Shipping News Feature

EU – BELGIUM – FRANCE – The new reinforcement of regulations, ostensibly to ensure French drivers take their weekend breaks out of their cabs, has produced harsh criticism from road haulage bodies who say the move is little more than blatant protectionism, foreign drivers waiting to reload freight being far more likely to remain in their vehicles over long breaks than native hauliers.

The International Road Transport Union (IRU) is calling on the European Commission, Member States and the Enforcement community to discuss and urgently deal with the matter which it says are clearly creating barriers on the single European road transport market. The move comes after France and Belgium vowed to adopt a more stringent interpretation of Regulation 561/2006, prohibiting commercial truck drivers from spending regular weekly rest time in their vehicle cabins.

Last week France adopted law imposing a company fine of €30,000 and 1 year’s imprisonment for truck drivers who take their regular weekly rest in the cab. Earlier this summer, Belgium already modified its legislation by imposing penalties on drivers of up to €1,800 for the same ‘offence’. The IRU has received a host of complaints referring to unjustified penalties imposed on trucks not registered in the Member State where the control takes place. The IRU views this as an indication that Member States are increasingly using enforcement to protect their national markets and points out these are practices which completely go against every principle of EU law.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) quotes anecdotal evidence that the Belgians are accepting anything up to 40 hours as a reduced weekly rest. However, this is anecdote and no official publication has been produced relating to enforcement policy in either country and, given the history of liberal interpretation of road regulations by the authorities in the countries involved, all hauliers should be aware of the situation.