Since 12 October 2018, judges have had the power to immobilise or even confiscate a lease car or company car driven by a persistent traffic offender. Employers need to take steps to make sure that they do not end up being liable if an employee's vehicle is seized.
Until recently, persistent road hooligans who do not own the car they drive could only be punished with fines, driving bans and possibly additional tests and exams. The judges were not able to immobilise or confiscate a lease car or company car, or by extension, someone else’s vehicle.
This meant that convicted traffic offenders sometimes escaped punishment if they were driving around in someone else’s vehicle, and avoided having their vehicle confiscated if they offended seriously again. It was not even possible to take the vehicle off the road temporarily if the new offence was committed in a vehicle that did not actually belong to the offender themselves.
Last year there were regular discussions about the law on vehicle ownership. Various judges, such as the magistrate Peter D’Hondt (in Dendermonde) and Kathleen Stinckens (in Leuven) felt that the extension to allow confiscation of lease cars was a top priority for road safety.
On this basis, in 2017 the CD&V party MP, Jef Van den Bergh, put forward a bill to remove the ownership requirement from the law. The bill was supported by the Minister of Justice, Koen Geens. It has now been voted through. Since 12 October 2018, this back door relating to ownership has been closed.
In practice, this means that the requirement of ownership has been removed from the traffic law. The result is that, alongside the punishment imposed, a judge also has the option of taking the vehicle off the road or declaring it confiscated. Even when the offender is not the owner of the car.
The extension actually goes a bit further. If the owner of the vehicle knows that the driver does not have a driving licence, has been banned from driving or that the driver got behind the wheel when drunk, they may also be summoned to the magistrate’s court.
In any case, we are waiting to see how the leasing sector and employers will react if a vehicle is immobilised due to a magistrate’s ruling.
“Employers would be well advised to act proactively now”, says Glenn Barbier, Fleet & Transport Consultant at Vanbreda Risk & Benefits. “The importance of having a good, watertight car policy just increased due to this change in the law. It needs to include a clause that the driver must inform their employer immediately if they no longer hold a valid driving licence. In addition, it must be stated clearly, in black and white, that the employer has valid recourse against the employee if they are caught driving under the influence.”
What is important for the employer, therefore, is that they cannot be held liable, and therefore they cannot be sued. If you would like more information or advice about this, we would be happy to help you further.
We are pleased to prepare a bespoke fleet policy for your firm. For more information, call us on +32 (0)3 217 55 07 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.