Drivers in the road transport sector are not allowed to spend their normal weekly rest period inside their vehicles

In Belgium, a transport company can receive a fine of EUR 1,800 if one of its drivers spends his normal weekly resting duration inside his vehicle. A transport company asked the Council of State to nullify this rule due to incompatibility with the European regulation on rest periods. The Council of State asked the European Court of Justice to clarify the regulation. In its judgment of 20 December 2017, the Court in Luxemburg confirmed that drivers are not allowed to spend their normal weekly rest periods inside their vehicles.

Regulation 561/06 on driving and rest periods in road transport provides that drivers have a normal weekly rest period of at least 45 hours. In each period of two consecutive weeks, drivers can combine this normal weekly rest period with a reduced weekly rest period of at least 24 hours.

Moreover, the regulation provides that drivers can spend “their daily rest periods and their reduced weekly rest periods (at least 24 hours)” inside the truck, as long as it has suitable sleeping facilities and is stationary.

The question arose whether the regulation permits that – in addition to the daily and the reduced weekly rest periods – also the “normal” weekly rest period (at least 45 hours) can be spent in the truck.

In its judgment of 20 December 2017, the Court of Justice ruled that the reference in the text to daily rest and reduced weekly rest rules out that the “normal” weekly rest can be spent in the truck. If this had not been the case, the European legislator would have referred to a weekly rest period without reserve, and not to the reduced weekly rest period.

Moreover, the Court recalls the legislative history of the regulation, noting that the European legislator rejected a draft which did allow the weekly rest period to be spent in the truck. The personal hygiene and wellbeing of the drivers would be jeopardised by this.

Finally, the Court recalls the goal of the law, i.e. to harmonise the competitive conditions, to improve labour conditions and – more in general – traffic safety. Considering such goals, the normal weekly rest must be spent outside the truck. The Court states that a truck is not suitable for spending the normal weekly rest, even if the newest trucks are provided with the latest facilities and the regulation does not provide concretely what suitable and fit accommodation for the drivers entails.