EU Court rules on tachograph penalties

5 April 2021

With drivers from the UK regularly making journeys through EU countries, there will be some interest in a recent decision of the Union’s Court of Justice (CJEU) with regard to what happens when drivers fail to produce tachograph record sheets during an inspection.

The case arose when, during two roadside inspections carried out in Italy, drivers of road transport vehicles (lorries, motor coaches and buses) were not able to produce the record sheets of the tachograph installed in their vehicles relating to several of the previous 28 days.

The drivers were given fines based on the number of missing record sheets and went to the Italian courts to argue that they should have been subject to one penalty for the overall offence.

Given that the case rested on an interpretation of Regulation (EEC) 3821/85 on recording equipment in road transport, the Italian courts asked the CJEU for a ruling on how the Regulation should be interpreted in this regard.

In a decision available — here, the Court of Justice has come down in favour of the drivers. It said that the relevant EU law establishes a single obligation covering the whole of the overall period of 29 days.

Thus, the breach of that obligation constitutes a single and instantaneous infringement, consisting in the fact that it is impossible for the driver concerned to produce, at the time of the inspection, all or some of those 29 record sheets. That infringement can give rise only to a single penalty.

However, the Court reminds the Member States that they must provide for sufficiently high penalties that are proportionate to the seriousness of that infringement, in order for that penalty to have a genuine deterrent effect.