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There are rules stating that one cannot sleep in the cabin during extended rest periods, but this is constantly ignored.

During a large-scale police check on social fraud in trucks, the police issued more than 250.000 euros in fines. In addition, nine trucks were seized. This action took place on Noorderlaan, near the port of Antwerp, and concerned the control of driving and rest times of truck drivers. Minister of Justice Paul Van Tigchelt (Open VLD) called the action a “deployment of power”.

More than a hundred officers worked together with various services, including the Immigration Office, the Social Intelligence and Investigation Service (SIOD) and the European Labor Authority (ELA). A total of 341 trucks were checked, of which 202 vehicles underwent a detailed inspection. According to the news service VRT NWS the audit led to the immediate collection of 124 fines, with a total amount of 255.762 euros. 

The checks showed that 135 drivers violated the rules on weekly rest periods. These drivers were forced to spend the weekend in their truck, when their employers should have provided hotel accommodation. In addition, 70 trucks had not left their home country after the mandatory eight weeks, and 35 drivers had been on the road continuously for more than four weeks, which is also in violation of regulations.

Guy Van Hyfte of the European Transport Federation spoke about the dire circumstances that many drivers face. “There are rules stating that people cannot sleep in the cabin during longer rest periods, but this is constantly ignored. Sanitary facilities are often insufficient for the large numbers of drivers. Sometimes they live in their cabin for six to seven months, while they have to be able to return home every four weeks.”

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control Antwerp
Photo: control Antwerp

Drivers often cook on campfires in the parking lot, and although there are showers, they are not designed for the number of users. Minister of the Interior Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) emphasized the importance of fair competition. “Companies that respect the rules settle those costs. It is unfair if others do not do so.”

The legislation on driving and rest times in Belgium states that a driver may drive for a maximum of 4,5 hours in a row, followed by a break of 45 minutes. A daily rest period of 11 hours is mandatory after 9 to 10 hours of driving, with a weekly mandatory rest period of 45 hours after six days of work. These rules are crucial for the safety of both drivers and other road users.

Minister Verlinden emphasized that the focus of the inspection is on employers. “The employers should be fined, we should not punish drivers again for the appalling conditions in which they have to work.” The information about companies that do not comply with the rules is shared internationally to prevent further fraud.

Yet compliance with the rules remains a challenge. Van Hyfte stated that some employers simply pay the fines and continue their practices, knowing that they still have hundreds of other trucks on the road. The fines start at 1.800 euros and must be paid immediately.

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