The German Federal Minister for Transportation Alexander Dobrindt aims to improve the social conditions of truck drivers – with new driver legislation. Regularly spending the weekends in a truck? Alexander Dobrindt wants to make that an exception for lorry drivers in Germany. In order for that to happen, the Drivers Act is to be amended. The Ministry has had the respective draft on the table since the end of 2015, which is intended to prevent the nomadic existence of many truck drivers. The explanatory memorandum to the draft explains that “observations of traffic conditions have shown that many drivers, particularly from Southeast-European states, regularly make arrangements to spend their weekly rest period in the vehicle […] This partly gives rise to sheer inhumane conditions.“
The draft of the Ministry envisages not only changes in the Drivers Act but also in the Road Haulage Act and the law governing the regulations of working times for self-employed drivers. According to the draft, employees will in future have to make sure “that drivers do not spend their regular weekly rest period in the vehicle”. It also includes the regulations that drivers must spend their rest period at their place of residence or at the company headquarters – and in a fixed accommodation. The duration of the weekly rest time must be at least 45 hours. Only under certain conditions may drivers spend their rest time in the truck.
Thus, the draft actually goes quite far, as it not only forbids drivers from staying in the truck, but also dictates where they have to stay. “What at first glance seems plausible and goal-oriented, will probably fail not only because of European law-making, but also because the drivers’ right of self-determination is also an issue“, explains the managing director of the Federal Association of Goods Transport by Road, Logistics and Disposal (BGL), Karl Heinz Schmidt, in Verkehrsrundschau magazine. The BGL actually prefers a European solution, rather than a solitary effort by Germany. Because, national penalties, as they already exist in France and Belgium, have so far only led to logistics companies instructing their drivers to move to European neighbours. The EU transport ministers are actually already working on the revision of the relevant EU Regulation 561/2006 on the harmonisation of specific social legislation relating to road transport. But it is still unclear how long this process will take and when the amendment will come into force. So it may be that the German legislation is in fact adopted faster.