Italian court deems haulier not liable for drivers’ hours violation

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An Italian court has ruled in favour of a carrier in a case concerning a violation of drivers' hours regulations. This is the second judgment by an Italian court that has ruled on the matter of haulier/driver liability regarding a breach of EU drivers' hours regulations.

Italian court deems haulier not liable for drivers’ hours violation
Photo credits @ AdobeStock/M_Perfectti

In the most recent case, a judge in Modena ruled in favour of a haulier who had been fined (by the decision of the prefect of Modena) for its driver violating working and rest time rules. The haulier filed a complaint against the decision and won the case.

The court pointed out that, under Article 10 (2) of Regulation (EC) No 56/2006, it is the haulier’s responsibility to organize the work of drivers in such a way that drivers comply with the rules. In addition, the haulier should give appropriate instructions to the driver and regularly check that the rules of the regulation are complied with.

However, the judge also acknowledged that the Italian legislature did not say anything about this, referring only to the provisions of the decree. Therefore, according to the court, the haulier’s liability is not always obvious and each case must be examined individually. This should be done by checking what action the company had taken “to provide its drivers with the correct instructions and to carry out the appropriate checks,” reports the Italian transport portal

The judge also referred to the opinion of the Department of Public Security of the Minister of the Interior, which makes it clear that punishing drivers for an alleged lack or inadequacy of training by the company gives the company an opportunity to prove otherwise.

Evidence that the company accused by the penalized driver did give adequate instructions regarding driving and rest time, and evidence that the employee had attended the training, should be deemed enough to demonstrate the company’s proper approach. Such a document was presented at the court hearing.

The haulier, concluded the judge, has thus fulfilled its own obligations and cannot, therefore, be held liable for the driver’s infringement. For this reason, the fine imposed on the company was annulled and the court costs were reimbursed.

Did the Italian courts change their attitude?

This is the second decision in Italy concerning the issue of joint and several liability for a driver’s infringement of working time in favour of the employer. A similar verdict was issued at the Ferentino Court at the end of last year.

An Italian court then upheld the appeal of the haulage company, which was fined along with its driver in the prefecture of Frosinone. According to the verdict, the company cannot be fined if the driver does not follow the driving and rest time instructions given to him by his employer.

Therefore, it can unfortunately be concluded that the Italian courts have changed their attitude towards the liability of carriers for infringements committed by the driver. In the past, similar appeals have been rejected and employers have been jointly and severally punished with drivers for such violations.

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