According to the EN directive, nobody is now allowed to cross the border with more than 40 tonne, but according to the French traffic regulations 44 tonne is allowed provided that all the conditions are met. There is thus no legal basis for imposing fines on lorries up to 44 tonne in French territory.
Vehicle sizes and weights are regulated at the European level, but the member states may deviate from these regulations in their own territory. For example, in Belgium a haulier can travel with 44 tonne, and soon with as much as 50 tonne in the Walloon region. Up to 44 tonne is also allowed in France. But nobody is allowed to cross the border with more than 40 tonne, at least if EN Directive 96/53/EC is taken to have the highest authority. In the Benelux there was already an agreement over cross-border traffic with 44 tonne before the EN directive was introduced.
For years already, employer organisations have been trying to draw attention to this absurd situation. After all, it disrupts competition and causes unnecessary environmental hindrance. But an amendment to the European Directive failed, as did attempts to reach an agreement with the French authorities.
However, this matter can also be approached in a different way. In their members’ newsletter, the VBO refers to a report from IDIT, a French legal consultancy. Unlike a European regulation, an EU directive does not form a basis for criminal law, according to the IDIT experts. The only legal document that qualifies for that is the French traffic regulations.
And according to those regulations, 44 tonne is allowed provided that all conditions of the traffic regulations are fulfilled, including the rules regarding axles. IDIT asserts that there is no legal basis for fining lorries up to 44 tonne in French territory.
And what if an accident occurs over the border? Can the insurer use the EU directive to refuse compensation? In this connection the VBO refers to Assuralia, which confirms that the vehicle’s business liability insurer is always obliged to provide compensation to the victims. Furthermore, there is no provision in the Model Vehicle Business Liability Insurance Policy for damage claims against the policyholder or the driver.