Transport workers celebrate justice as ECJ confirms: drivers must spend weekly rest away from their vehicles

21 Dec 2017

20 December 2017 was a big day for professional drivers and trade unions across Europe, as the European Court of Justice ruled that weekly rest cannot be taken in the vehicle – be it truck, bus or coach!

The ECJ explained that sleeping in the vehicle goes against the spirit and objectives of the EU’s driving and rest time regulation: to ensure fair competition between road operators; to improve working conditions for professional drivers;  and to guarantee safety for all road users. The Court also reminds that, in line with the same regulation, ‘rest’ is defined as a period of time taken as a block, during which the driver can freely dispose of their time. Spending 45 hours or more confined in a truck cabin is thus absolutely not ‘rest’.

The ECJ ruling will particularly impact those road hauliers recruiting drivers from low-income countries to work for extensive periods of time abroad. Some of those hauliers take advantage of the fact that drivers have no accommodation in the country of work, and thus make them sleep in trucks. Essentially they use the drivers as guards for freight and vehicles, night and day and even during weekends. Moreover, spending the weekend in the truck itself means the driver is ready to set off early on Monday morning, as soon as the rest period is over and weekend driving bans around the Europe come to an end.

“This is a victory for the union movement, and a victory for drivers! This ruling is – at last – all about protecting drivers’ rights. Over the past years, weekly rest spent in the vehicle was a key element of social dumping in the road transport sector. I call on all the politicians currently busy in Brussels with the Mobility Package to follow the path set by the ECJ. Let’s make road transport a sector for people and not for ruthless business!” said Frank Moreels, ETF President.

“The next step now is to make sure this decision is implemented. We must multiply controls and apply sanctions, and all Member States must commit to it. Sanctions must target employers, not drivers, as road transport operators are legally responsible for organising drivers’ activity in compliance with the driving and rest rules. In the days to come, the ETF will launch an appeal to all national authorities across the EU urging them to act on the decision quickly and firmly.” said Roberto Parrillo, ETF Road Transport Section President.

“In recent years working conditions in road transport have degraded so much that road operators now need to recruit from outside of the EU. Indeed, the industry is constantly searching for cheaper and more vulnerable workers, who are easier to exploit. But this ECJ ruling, and the driving and rest time rules that it clarifies, apply to all drivers working within the EU, no matter where they come from. So, there is no escape from the law here!” said ETF General Secretary Eduardo Chagas.

Background reading:

See this ETF blog post and this ECJ press release (pdf) for more details about the ruling.

For more information contact:

Cristina Tilling

Political Secretary for Road Transport

+32 478 55 81 35

About the ETF:

The European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) represents more than 5 million transport workers from more than 230 transport unions and 41 European countries in the following sectors: railways, road transport and logistics, maritime transport, inland waterways, civil aviation, ports & docks, tourism and fisheries.

Visit or follow us via Twitter at @ETF_Europe.