The rules on working time and rest breaks in the transport sector are complex and vary from industry to industry. Mobile road transport workers, such as HGV drivers, are covered by EU drivers’ hours rules. Under current EU Regulations, daily rest breaks are allowed to be spent in the lorry but the position on weekly rest breaks is unclear. Some EU Member States, including the UK, have their own rules prohibiting the practice of permitting drivers to spend their weekly rest periods in the cabs of their vehicles, a practice that has been condemned by the European Transport Workers’ Federation (EFT).

Of particular interest is the ongoing case of Vaditrans BVBA v Belgium which is currently being considered before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). Belgium is one of the countries that prohibits drivers from spending weekly rest breaks in their vehicles. In this case, Vaditrans, a Belgian road transport company, has brought a claim against Belgium to challenge this rule and the associated penalties for violation. The main issue to be determined is whether the Drivers’ Hours Regulation 561/2006 should be interpreted to mean that the regular weekly rest breaks referred to in the Regulation must not be spent inside the vehicle.

In considering the issue, the CJEU has asked the Advocate General for his opinion on the matter. The Advocate General has proposed that the Court should interpret the Regulation as meaning that a driver may not take regular weekly rest periods inside the vehicle. Whilst the CJEU is not bound to follow the Advocate General’s advice, it will usually do so. If this does happen, the rules prohibiting the practice of allowing drivers to take weekly rest periods inside their vehicles will apply EU-wide.

The final ruling is expected to be made later this year so keep an eye on our blog for further updates.