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Alarm: motorway tolls far too pricy

Road Transport  

EU ruling on road safety: regular driver on-board weekly rest prohibited 

Paolo Castiglia

Transport costs on the one hand and road safety on the other, the road transport sector is giving some serious consideration to these issues as 2018 starts to unfold.

The recent rise in motorway tolls, operational as of January 1, 2018, caused a public outcry throughout the sector, as road hauliers feel that their business will be negatively affected by this price hike, "which - according to the sector’s representatives - could stifle the economic recovery".

The president of Confartigianato Trasporti, Amedeo Genedani, came down particularly hard on these measures, questioning the reasons given by the Government following the considerable increase of some motorway tolls: "Government sources justify the increases stating that these were already provided for in the Standard Agreement stipulated in 2007 together with a number of resolutions by Cipe (Interministerial Commitee of Economic Planning). These resolutions had already established the tariff options and criteria for determining future toll rise taking into account parameters linked to inflation, quality, greater productivity and investments. Private investments by concessionaries in the period between October 2016 and September 2017, amounted to € 755 million. So these justifications look like a ‘crumbling castle in the sky’".

Apart from these calculations, all associations are opposing these measures because, according to them, increasing the external costs of road haulage companies, "could stifle the economic development. And there is no need to invoke a possible alternative to road transport".

In fact, at present, transferring goods from road to rail is proving to be quite difficult, despite the incentives that in some areas can be quantified in 2.50 euro per kilometre. Higher costs, waiting time and cargo transfer are simply not compatible with the needs of the customers and the market that requires increasingly quick deliveries.

Genedani, therefore, asked a government intervention "to soften the blow, otherwise no-one should be surprised if transport companies decide to abandon motorway routes favouring ordinary roads with negative consequences on traffic congestion and safety on provincial roads".

This aspect, particularly sensitive in terms of costs, isn’t the only one on the table. Equally important are issues related to safety. On this, we must recognize a recent, and positive, tightening on the issue of regular driver weekly rest at European level. Drivers are now not allowed to spend their weekly rest on-board their vehicle: a ruling dated December 20, 2017 by the European Court of Justice legitimizes the bans imposed by some member States on regular weekly rest in the cabin.

This is a historical ruling for the sector, which settles an issue that was raised in recent years by a number of EU countries that imposed a ban on spending the regular 45-hour weekly rest inside the truck. Some States, particularly in Eastern Europe, claim that this ban is illegal and a Belgian transport company, Vaditrans, presented, in August 2014 to the Raad van State (the Belgian Council of State), an appeal against a fine of 1800 euro to one of its drivers “guilty” of spending his weekly rest in the cabin.

According to the haulier, the Belgian Royal Decree should not be viewed as valid since the EU Regulation on driving time does not explicitly provide for such a prohibition, while the State affirms that the same Regulation clearly states that the driver cannot spend his weekly rest on board the vehicle. Thus, the Raad van State has referred the matter to the European Court of Justice for a final clarification.

The Court issued the ruling, stating that the European legislator "clearly intended to allow the driver to take reduced weekly resting periods on-board the vehicle and to prohibit him from doing the same on regularweekly resting periods".

The judges add that the Regulation pursues the essential objective of improving the working conditions of road transport personnel and road safety in general. The legislator, therefore, is working towards giving drivers the opportunity to take regular weekly resting periods in a place that provides suitable and adequate conditions.

According to the Court, a cab isn’t the most suitable place to guarantee adequate rest for periods longer than normal daily breaks or reduced weekly resting periods.

Therefore, if regular weekly resting periods spent on-board should be considered as the norm, this would mean that drivers would spend all their resting periods in their vehicles, which would go against the purpose of improving the working conditions of long distance drivers set out in the Law.  

The ruling recognizes that during the regulatory process, the European Commission had proposed to give drivers the possibility to take all the resting periods (ie both reduced and regular daily rest periods as well as reduced and regular weekly resting periods) on board the vehicle.

The proposal was subsequently amended providing only for a reduced weekly break, with the exception of the regular weekly rest period, in order to protect the well-being and hygienic conditions of the drivers. This change clearly demonstrates, according to the Court, the intentions of the legislative body to exclude the possibility of regular on-board weekly rest periods.

The Court concludes that the Union’s regulation, which harmonizes the rules on social matters within the road transport sector, contains a clear prohibition for drivers to spend their weekly rest period on board their vehicle.

Moreover, still according to EU leaders, as far as sanctions are concerned, it’s up to each Member State to decide which ones will guarantee the effectiveness of the Regulation, ensuring that these sanctions are imposed in harmony with same conditions of those issued for breaches of the national law that are similar in nature and importance.



Sanctions via certified email also for road hauliers


As of January 17, 2018, companies that have a certified e-mail address registered in public lists will receive sanctions only in this way. In fact, since 2009 all companies and professionals must have a certified e-mail address so this norm impacts the day-to-day activities of road haulage companies.

The Official Gazette number 12 dated January 16, 2018 has, in fact, published the Decree of the Ministry of the Interior dated December 18, 2017 which provides for the notification of serious breaches of the Highway Code to be certified via email from January 17.

Basically, Police authorities must send the notification only via certified email, provided that the offender, or the owner of the vehicle, is present in the national list managed by the Ministry for Economic Development and updated with information from the Registry of Companies or professional associations. It must be said that sending the sanction via certified email does not change the terms provided by the Highway Code. The notification is officially recorded as soon as a receipt is generated by the recipient's system, and for the latter the payment terms start from when the system generates the receipt. Then, from that moment, the terms for paying the fine with  a discount (five days), payment with a reduction (sixty days), and/or appeal (thirty days to the justice of the peace and sixty days to the Prefect) are in force. Warning: this happens even if the recipient hasn’t read the certified email. Sending the notification via certified e-mail cuts costs, but local administrations could charge the inspection costs to the recipient.

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