New FAQ from the French Transport Ministry: Conditions for Taking Regular Weekly Rest time for Truck drivers

Update as of June 12, 2024: The FAQ that was published on the French Transport Ministry’s website has been removed. We will provide further updates once the new version is published.

Two years after the implementation of the new posting rules resulting from the Mobility Package, we observed a new reality on the roads in France and  other countries like Belgium, Switzerland, and Italy, regarding the new controlling practices.

After a lot of complaints about the checks on the ban on taking regular weekly rest time in vehicles, the European Commission (EC) has  provided a significant number of Questions & Answers and issued notes, such as on Art. 8.8, to further clarify these rules. These efforts aim to help transport companies, their drivers and controlling authorities to have uniform understanding and to comply with the posting rules better and more efficiently.

The uniformity of understanding and implementation of these rules across Member States is a significant concern. While the European Commission provides guidelines and Q&A documents to clarify regulations, the consistency of interpretation and enforcement can vary among Member States.

New FAQ from the French Transport Ministry

In France, roadside checks regarding regular weekly rest periods and the return of the driver home have become strictly controlled practice over the past two years. These checks are persistently conducted by the French controlling authorities to ensure compliance with the rule. After more than two years, the obligation imposed on companies to organize a regular weekly rest time outside the cabin for their drivers still raise many questions about how to control this obligation efficiently. Can the controlling authorities fully check it during roadside checks when drivers are not obliged to possess all non-mandatory evidence and hotel invoices in the vehicle?

This month, the international transport sector is honoured to receive a new section of the FAQ published on May 13, 2024, by the French Transport Ministry. I will outline some key points from this FAQ about the ban on taking weekly rest periods inside the cabin.

Regular weekly rest time outside the cabin - right for the driver or obligation for the operator?

Article 15, introduced into Article L. 3315-4-1 to the French Transport Code, imposes a penalty of one year’s imprisonment and a €30,000 fine on any company that organizes drivers’ work without ensuring they take their regular weekly rest (at least 45 hours) away from their vehicle.

The French FAQ states that Article L. 3313-3 of the French Transport Code requires EMPLOYERS to organize truck drivers’ work so they can take their regular weekly rest outside the vehicle. This follows Article 10 of Regulation 561/2006 dated March 15, 2006.

Drivers are legally required to take their regular weekly rest period of at least 45 hours as stipulated by EU Regulation 561/2006 and respective national laws, such as the French Transport Code. FAQ specifies that regular weekly rest time outside the cabin serves to protect drivers’ rights to rest while also being a legal obligation that they must adhere to, with  employers playing a crucial role in organizing this compliance.

Please note that European rules establish an obligation of an organisational nature, combined with an obligation to keep the corresponding records at premises for checks by the competent authorities. The FAQ confirms that enforcers cannot entirely check and confirm the infringement of the obligations on regular weekly rest time during roadside control due to the lack of necessary data inside the cabin. Full compliance with this obligation should be checked at the premises of the transport undertakings after the performed roadside control. However, the FAQ specifies that inspectors are trained to evaluate the global view of all elements which can lead to the fine deposit even if the proofs cannot be requested on the road or the fine cannot be given because of missing proof. 

 

 

Can the driver be responsible for non-compliance with this obligation?

It is important and positive to underline that the new FAQ confirms that the French law does not provide for any sanctions against drivers and not independent drivers also, nor does it impose any constraints on them. In addition, the French law penalizes employers for not compliance with Articles 8.8 and 10 of Regulation 561/2006, so fail to organize their drivers’ work in this way, that they can take their regular weekly rest outside their vehicle.

However, during roadside checks, drivers are often forced by French control authorities to present and keep inside the cabin additional documents (such as hotel bills) attesting to their activities outside the vehicle for the last 28 days.  It also happens that the driver may never admit to having rested in the cabin, and the French authorities immediately declare that this is the case. If the transport undertaking cannot immediately present requested documents on the road, controlling authorities stop the driver and pressure him to accept the control protocol and pay the court deposit.

 In fact, even if they are no sanctions against drivers, they are continuously under pressure during their driving activity. All roadside checks and the way of controlling this compliance on the road open the possibility to impose many constraints and stress on them. Drivers are obliged to carry proof for check on the road.

As noted in the publication by the EC, the French Transport Ministry confirms that controlling authorities can check the current regular weekly rest time and for the previous 28 days recorded on the tachograph card during inspections, as stated in the Note on enforcement practices of Article 8 (8) on Regulation (EC)561/2006 on the ban to take a regular weekly rest periode in the vehicle provided by the EC. [1]

Documents and proofs to be carried by the driver

It’s essential to highlight that there is no specific list of required proofs that a company can provide for rest taken outside the cab. The burden of proof is on the authority’s side to demonstrate not correct work organization, usually through repeated observations of drivers taking their normal weekly rest in the cabin. In this context, employers and transport companies can use any relevant documents to prove they properly organized work in order to prove their compliance. It can be understood by this interpretation that not only hotel bills may be accepted by the French controlling authorities but also other relevant accommodation arrangements and proofs.

As explained in the Questions and Answers published by the European Commission on driving and rest times rules (Question 5) « Several types of accommodation may fulfil those criteria, for instance, a hotel, motel rental apartment or a private home » [1]. This opens the possibility for the French controlling authorities to access the validity of the proofs on the road and based on that issue a fine deposit.

[1] Posting rules – European Commission (europa.eu)

 

 

Regular checks and disciplinary action for their drivers by transport company

Under the French FAQ, please note that according to Article 10.2 of Regulation 561/2006, employers must ensure compliance with rest time rules through instructions and regular checks. They cannot evade responsibility by citing the “free choice” of employees and must enforce compliance through regular checks, including taking disciplinary action for their drivers if necessary.

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