Amendment to the Act on Vehicles Crews

On 25th May 2017, the amended German Act on Vehicles Crews entered into force. It prohibits truck drivers from spending the statutory regular weekly period of rest in the truck itself.

While the former regulations – in accordance with the requirements of the European Union – already obliged drivers to take a regular weekly period of rest of 45 hours, the amendment introduces a new provision regarding the place in which the period of rest should be spent.

Starting from 2014 – when Belgium, France and the Netherlands interpreted Art 8 (8) of the Regulation (EC) No. 561/2006 in a way that the regular weekly period of rest was not to be taken in the truck and introduced a national country prohibition punishable by a fine – there have been major discussions on how to handle this issue in Germany, as well. In the beginning, there were numerous supporters of a joint European solution, however, Germany decided to take a separate national approach, as an all-European solution did not seem achievable in the near future.

The first proposal by the Federal Ministry of Transport provided that the work of drivers should be organized in a way to enable them to spend the minimum 45 hours of regular weekly rest imposed by European legislation at their place of residence or at the seat of the employing company. The latter would have to provide for a permanent place of lodging with sanitary facilities as well as sufficient food supply. However, the legislator refrained from this proposal as is was considered to be too far-reaching. Furthermore, concerns were raised with view to the fact that the proposal exceeded the mandatory European requirements.

The mitigated Act on Vehicles Crews which has come into force now stipulates that drivers do not comply with the regular weekly period of rest, if they spent it in the vehicle or in a place lacking an appropriate sleeping facility.

The transport undertaking is responsible for ensuring that these conditions are met. Both the driver and the undertaking can be imposed with a fine in case of non-compliance. According to the schedule of fines, a driver may be fined with an amount of 60 EUR for each hour spent in the truck and the undertaking can expect a fine of up to 180 EUR for each hour.

Compared to the earlier legislative proposal, the new amendments are much less controversial. An additional mitigation is that this prohibition covers only the regular weekly period of rest of 45 hours and does not also include the abbreviated weekly period of rest of 24 hours. The latter may be still spent in a truck. While the supporters of the stricter prohibition will mourn the envisaged drivers’ protection, transport undertakings may heave a sigh of relief as for the time being the necessity to completely reorganize the periods of rest of their employees has been averted.

Contact person: Caroline Röger, LL.M., Attorney at law