The European Court of Justice has ruled that HGV drivers may not take full 45 hour weekly rest periods in the cabs of their vehicles, and that national governments are entitled to penalise drivers who contravene that prohibition.

The ruling was made following a Belgian case involving an operator whose driver had been issued with an 1,800.00 Euro fine for taking a full weekly rest in the cab of his vehicle.  The operator appealed on the basis that there was nothing in the EU Drivers Hours Regulation (EC) 561/2006 which specifically prohibits a driver from doing so - and, therefore, that the state had no legal power to issue penalties.

The Belgian appeals court hearing the case referred it to the European Court, seeking a ruling on whether the EC Drivers' Hours Regs should be interpreted as meaning that drivers may not take full weekly rests in vehicle cabs (and if yes, whether it is lawful under European Charter principles for any nation state to criminalise taking full weekly rest periods in cabs given that the EC Regs do not specifically prohibit it).

The European Court looked closely at the EC Regulation - and in particular, its overall objective which includes seeking " improve working conditions and road safety" and concluded that the Regulation was intended to prohibit taking full weekly rests in cabs (the Regulation makes it clear that daily rests and REDUCED weekly rest periods may be taken in vehicle cabs, as long as the cab is suitably equipped).

The Court ruled that Member States are entitled to put in place national measures to prohibit drivers taking full weekly rests in cabs and to punish contraventions, despite there being no specific reference to any offence in the EC Regulation.

UK operators should be aware that under domestic law, the DVSA now has powers to issue fixed penalty fines where drivers take full weekly rests in vehicle cabs: presently, according to DVSA guidance, fines will only be issued where those weekly rests are taken in areas where there is no access to toilets, showers or food facilities - it remains to be seen whether in the light of this decision, national measures will be stepped up to include an outright prohibition on any full weekly rest being taken in the cab (but it seems likely that this will be the consequence).

Our advice is that full weekly rests should always be taken away from the vehicle cab at a place where there are proper facilities to ensure comfort and adequate rest for the driver.

If you would like any further information on this issue or any other issue affecting your business, then call us now on 01279 818280.

February 2018

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