In a couple of recent cases that have come before the European Court, employers and drivers have argued over which one of them was liable for tachograph rule infringements.
In one case, Bulgarian drivers were stopped at a check point and were unable to produce the last 28 days manual records or tachograph charts to the Hungarian authorities. They were fined under Hungarian law but the drivers argued that the fine should have been imposed upon their employer not the drivers. The case came before the European Court which held that although the relevant EU regulation states that Member States are entitled to hold operators fully liable for infringements committed by their drivers, this doesn’t preclude imposing penalties on drivers, particularly where the infringement is one which relates exclusively to how the driver has performed his work.
The second case also involved failure to produce charts, but in this case a Bulgarian vehicle was immobilised by Hungarian authorities until the fine had been paid. The employer argued that the vehicle should not have been immobilised as the employer was not a party to driver’s failure to produce his charts. The European Court held that in this case, as under Hungarian law a vehicle belonging to a Hungarian national could not be immobilised, that the sole purpose of immobilising the vehicle was to ensure rapid payment of the fine; that this was not proportionate and exceeded the legitimate aims of the EU law.
The cases show that both drivers and employers can be held liable for breaches of tachograph rules but that the decision as to which one or if both are held liable will depend upon where the culpability lies. Any action taken by the authorities must be proportionate and in order that road safety and working conditions are improved, not for alternative reasons such as ensuring that a fine is swiftly paid.