As of 25 May 2017, Germany has banned lorry drivers from spending their regular weekly rest in the cabin of their HGV. The law was passed in March, and came into effect in May. Unlike similar bans in Belgium and France, however, in Germany the wording of the law allows for so much room for interpretation that some are now asking what exactly they will be faced with if they violate it. In France and Belgium, it is simple: spending the regular weekly resting period in the cabin of the lorry is banned, and breaking this law costs 1800 Euro (Belgium) or up to 30,000 Euro (France). In Germany, however, the ban is not included explicitly within the law; instead it is indirectly implied. The result: it is very difficult for controlling bodies to prove that a violation has taken place. The law remains as we described it in Portatio on 11 April:
“If, for example, a driver is seen at a highway rest stop by the police on Saturday morning in their truck, and then once again on Sunday evening, then the police will assume that this is the shortened weekly rest time of 24 hours.” However, in accordance with current laws, the driver in Germany cannot be prosecuted for this weekend. However: the police can check the recorded times, and if the driver has already taken a shortened weekly break the weekend before, then they have a problem, and may be asked to pay a fine”. For more, see “Germany: weekly break in the truck – legal uncertainty” (http://www.portatio.com/?blogId=1704061347444543)
What are the fines?
In the last few weeks, there have been rumours, speculation and plenty of incorrect information. Some have claimed that fines could total up to 30,000 Euro. However, there is no proof of this, and according to our information this amount is definitely false.
If the driver is ‘caught’ in their cabin on the weekend, then they can – as described above – only be fined for the previous weekend, not for this break time at all. They then pay 60 Euro for every hour under the regulated 45 hour rest, and the company pays 180 Euro. The amount is calculated from the catalogue of fines, and it is assumed that the driver has acted deliberately.
The German Federal Office for Goods Transport has now provided a recommendation to the responsible federal-state committee, stating that fines for this violation should be set at 500 Euro for the driver and 1500 Euro for the company. Warning: this is merely a suggestion, and it may take a long time before it is implemented.
Problems with practical implementation
Some have claimed that it is the driver who must prove where they spent the night – this is not true! The police are responsible for providing proof, which just highlights some of the problems created by this change in law. How is an Autobahn police officer going to prove where a driver spent the previous weekend?
Another issue for the authorities is the fact that any police check represents an interruption of the driver’s weekend. As the driver under investigation is required to assist the police in their inquiries, the times spent doing this is considered work, and the weekend rest time is interrupted, meaning the driver must start their break over after the police are finished. This was easily solved in Belgium. They simply said “Oh, this is such a small thing, we will just say it doesn’t interrupt the weekend break. Forget it!”. In Germany, however, it is being taken more seriously. The police may, unlike rumours to the contrary, perform a check at any time, even during a driver’s break, even if the curtains in the cabin are closed. Based on experience, however, most police officers will avoid doing so, as a matter of consideration and in order to keep on the good side of drivers.
The Federal Office for Goods Transport has yet to come up with a practical solution. In its recommendation to the federal-state committee, they wrote that ‘practical solutions’ to this problem should be investigated. However, if even the authorities specialising in investigating trucks have no solution for the issue, then the probability that a federal-state committee will be able to find one seems small at best.
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