Illegal roadside checks – passing problem or ongoing concern?

Over the past months, a significant increase of illegal roadside checks has unfolded since February 2022, persisting to the present day. According to our statistical data, a staggering 80% of transport companies lack sufficient time to prepare the necessary evidence requested during roadside checks.

Illegal roadside checks practise

In the past two years, disparities in the enforcement of road transport rules, especially in France and Belgium, caused confusion for transport companies and drivers. Differences in control practices, such as verification of employment contracts and additional documents in cases where it’s not anymore mandatory, leads to confusion in road transport sector.

This situation raises still a lot of questions and unclarity for transport companies as to which rules apply.

In 70% of cases, French inspection authorities require non-mandatory documents, such as as hotel bills, and penalize drivers if these aren’t provided during checks. Moreover, 90% of fines for drivers not returning “home” are determined solely from tachograph and GPS data. Over the past year, 70% of court deposits were issued for lacking cabin documents without authorities contacting operators for required proofs. None of the operators has been contacted by French control authorities to provide necessary documents.

Drivers and companies face penalties for not having specific documents during roadside checks, leading to prolonged stops, sometimes lasting up to 24 or 36 hours. In fact, control officers are penalizing at the roadside control, without checking all necessary data.

Penalties in France

Some of the most challenging control practices occur in France, particularly concerning the prohibition of drivers taking regular weekly rest periods in their vehicles and their return to their home country.

In case of France, an amount of a single court deposit can vary from 750 to 1 500 Euro in case of violating the rules on regular weekly rest time outside the cabin and from 2 000 to 4.500 Euro in case of violating the rules on return of the driver home.

The average time for a roadside inspection varies from 2 to 4 hours if the driver and the company agree to pay the fine at the first stage of the road checks and there is no evidence to provide.  The most frequent and largest number of inspections we observed just after the weekend, on Mondays and Tuesdays, regarding the ban on weekly rest in the cabin.

What behind the illegal roadside checks practices in France ?

In this context in the note published by the European Commission, provides among other things, the exhaustive list of documents that the driver must present on a request of the control officer. These are the records sheets, the driver card if one is held, any manual records and printouts.  Whenever an authorised control officer performing checks at the roadside, drivers must produce their driver card, the record sheets for the current day and the previous 28 days. These data must cover all drivers’ activities (e.g., driving, other work) and inactivity periods also (e.g., availability, breaks and rest periods).

According to the guidelines, control officers may control compliance with Article 8 (8) of Regulation (EC) no 561 / 2005 for the rest taken in the preceding 28 days and / or in another Member States.

Thus, inspectors cannot penalize drivers and companies for not having such documents during roadside checks.  

So, how the transport companies can prevent the organization for the current practices in France, Belgium?

In this context, the company should prevent and prepare clear internal company process documentation. In addition, the company should develop a system to notify drivers of return options, notifying them of their opportunities to return “home” through couriers, internal communication systems, or other means they regularly use. (by which means train, bus, private car, plane, others).

It’s very important to maintain proofs also if the driver returns via a minibus or alternative transportation. Important to know, many negative responses could be treated by the regulatory authorities as a collusion/agreement between the company and the driver to refuse to come-back home. Also, no response doesn’t exempt the company from organizing the return.

Why it’s important to claim current cases at national and European level?

Claiming current cases at national and European levels is crucial due to the ERRU system, where penalty points for various transport violations are recorded. Exceeding point limits risks license suspension or revocation. Varying access to this data across countries demands unified information sharing via IMI, connecting national transport registers. The Mobility Package introduced new IMI modules, enhancing information exchange on infringements, ensuring a common understanding of transport rules across Europe.

Member States are obliged to operate a risk rating system for transport company, which is based on the relative number and gravity of any infringement concerned with driving times and rest periods and with the use of tachographs as means of measuring the working time of the drivers.

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