Drivers are people, not goods! – ETF on container hotels

5 May 2022

Haulage companies are ready to jump on the idea of container hotels – and some are even building their own. Start-ups are building or repurposing containers to place around Europe for drivers to sleep in. It’s a far cry from what companies need to do according to Mobility Package EU rules on driving, rest time, and driver return – rules that were put into place to ensure decent working conditions…

Container hotels are just that: containers built for drivers to sleep in – assimilating professional drivers to the goods they transport.

For the ETF, the concept is yet another way for transport companies to circumvent EU law.  

The Mobility Package rules on driving and rest time and driver return home were put into place to improve their working conditions – especially to allow drivers to spend more time with their families. Not to sleep in a container.

“I’m not merchandise, but a person”

In a quick survey on Facebook, ETF asked drivers what they thought about sleeping in containers – if this would make their job as a driver more attractive.

Drivers reacted – saying first and foremost that they are not goods but human beings and that the idea of sleeping them in containers is a lack of respect.

What’s clear is that this is not the way to solve the shortage of drivers – and the absence of decent jobs that’s causing it.

Is sleeping drivers in containers legal?

In a nutshell: no – containers are not suitable accommodation, don’t contribute to improving drivers’ working conditions, and don’t allow them to dispose of their rest time freely.

Paragraph 8 of Article 8 of the existing driving and rest time require that the regular weekly rest period and any weekly rest period of more than 45 hours be taken in suitable gender-friendly accommodation with adequate sleeping and sanitary facilities.

EU law also defines drivers’ rest as a period when drivers can freely dispose of their time.

Putting drivers in containers does not fit the description of accommodation or definition of rest time.

Is there a loophole that would allow businesses to sleep their drivers in containers?

No. But, if businesses see that they can get away with it, they will certainly try.

Since August 2020, road transport operators must ensure that the drivers they employ return home or return to the company base:

  • Every three weeks IF during a 3-week period, the driver was given 2 consecutive reduced weekly rest periods
  • Within each period of four consecutive weeks, in order to spend at least one regular weekly rest period or a weekly rest period of more than 45 hours taken in compensation for reduced weekly rest period

Given the lack of road enforcement and checks, there is a real worry that operators may do this to circumvent the Mobility Package’s driver return home rule. Dubious companies will certainly try to sleep their drivers in these containers. Most probably, they will install containers next to company premises. Instead of letting drivers go back home – they’ll have drivers sleep there on a permanent basis, in containers, next to the company base.

ETF's reply to companies arguing that their accommodation is comfortable and suitable:

The ETF does not dispute the quality, we dispute the compliance with Mobility Package rules. Sleeping drivers in containers fails to qualify as ‘suitable accommodation’ and fails to improve driver working conditions, as the law requires. Moreover, when containers are placed in the middle of nowhere – particularly in parking areas – drivers cannot freely dispose on their rest time and ‘disposing freely on one’s time is the definition of drivers’ rest time.

ETF action

As key components of the Mobility Package come into force, the ETF has been urging Member States to step up enforcement and is linking our work with the European Labour Authority (ELA) in the ELA Action Plan on Road Transport framework for 2022.

ETF on enforcement: