Few years ago, the French authorities have adopted new regulations under Decree n°2019 -1428 of December 24, 2019, which impose an obligation to provide an accommodation outside the vehicle for daily and weekly rest periods on transport operators carried out by light commercial vehicles (below 3,5t).
In this context, the regular weekly rests or daily rest period must be taken in suitable gender-friendly accommodation with adequate sleeping and sanitary facilities, per consequent cannot be taken in the cabin of the vehicle.
Please note that in this case the employer must provide evidence, such as hotel bills, to prove that they drivers spent their regular weekly rest in adequate accommodation outside the vehicle.
It is also incumbent on the employer to ensure that the driver can prove to the inspection authorities during an ongoing roadside inspection that this obligation has been fulfilled.
Often roadside inspections in France are performed by French authorities in French language. Due to the language barrier, the driver without assistance of a representative in France struggles to answer the questions or provide additional documents. Moreover, drivers and the transport company are very frequently only informed in French language about the needed information. Therefore, it happens that the driver never even admitted having the rest time in the cabin but the French authorities state that this was the case.
It is very important in case of control on the road in France, that the company keeps evidence that the accommodation has been provided by the employer and can present the following evidence immediately during a roadside inspection, for example, receipts for a hotel, a motel apartment, or a private home.
Certainly, the undisputed evidence in this case will be a bill or invoice for a hotel, or other place of accommodation. The driver at the time of the inspection should carry a document that he has taken a rest under the terms of the French regulations, but often in practice, French authorities, without waiting for explanations from the driver and the company, impose to pay a deposit, so called “consignation” and made a pressure for the driver to pay the fine.
The French Transport Code provide the following sanctions of this obligation by, a Class 5 fine of up to €1,500, which can be increased to €3,000 in the event of a repeat offense, under Article R3315 – 11§4 of the French Transport Code, or under the Article L 3315-4-1 of the Transport Code – up to 1 year imprisonment and a €30,000 fine (legal entity x5).
As a general rule, the regulations apply regardless of nationality, however, in our experience, if the French authority determine that the vehicle has been used to commit this infringement, and the employer is unable to prove the driver’s residence or employment on French territory, the vehicle may also be seized and oblige to pay the “consignation” of a €750 under the French Transport Code.
The road checks regarding the ban on taking rest breaks in a bus seems to be illegal in France.
The Commission has decided to open infringement in January 2022, proceedings against France regarding its national legislation prohibiting daily and weekly rest periods inside Light Commercial Vehicles (LCVs).
The Commission considers that French legislation introducing a ban on spending daily and weekly rest periods inside LCVs, i.e., vehicles which exceed 2.5 tons and up to 3.5 tons, is in breach of EU law, in particular Regulation (EC) No 1072/2009.
The Commission considers that the French rule unjustifiably and disproportionately restricts the freedom to provide road transport services in France, and runs counter to the objectives of the internal market. France now has two months to reply to the concerns raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.
More details regarding this case should be published soon.