Norway court acquits truck driver fined for washing truck on weekend

The District Court of Follo and Nordre Östfold acquitted a Norwegian trucker who was fined by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration last fall for briefly driving a truck through the territory of a transport company without a card inserted in the tachograph.

Having received a fine of 20,000 NOK (almost 2,000 euros), the driver of the Kaasa Transport company, Vegard Kose, decided to challenge it in court, considering it illegal. The first hearing in this case was held on November 15, 2022. Before hearing the case, Odd’s lawyer Robert Aksnes and his ward expressed the hope that reason would prevail in this process.

Prior to the district court’s first hearing, the prosecutor stated that both parties agreed that the truck was being driven, but disagreed as to whether that driving fell under the rules governing driving and rest times.

In addition, a representative of the on-site inspection of the Norwegian Public Roads Administration was summoned to the court as a witness. According to her explanation, the instructions of her service indicate that they must report cases like the one under consideration.

“When ‘other work’ is not documented, the rules are broken. The driver card must be used for all types of driving” – representative of the Norwegian Public Roads Administration.

She also explained that “the inspectors have different knowledge, and the inspections have a different focus.” It’s entirely possible that the Kaasa Transport trucks weren’t caught sooner by sheer luck.

During the meeting, Odd’s lawyer Robert Aksnes explained the situation and the position of the management of the transport company. According to him, there are several drivers in Kaasa Transport who consider washing their car on a day off as a hobby and an opportunity to communicate with colleagues in an informal setting. No one forces them to do this, and wages are not paid for this. The fact that the machine is being moved to access water on private property has nothing to do with the job.

“I think it can be seen as part of the work environment for employees to be allowed to meet and chat and wash the car. And this is done not in the interests of the employer, but in the interests of the employee. In this case, there is no doubt that“ – Odd Robert Aksnes.

And so, on November 22, the district court of Follo and Nordre Østfold in this case passed a verdict by which Vegard Kosa was acquitted.

“The District Court found that the use of a driver card is not required to drive in a closed area” – Odd Robert Aksnes.

He also added that “it was clear to the court that the washing and polishing performed by the worker in this case should be considered rest time and not work time.”

“The court notes that Kosa drove exclusively on private land owned by his employer Kaasa Transport AS. The area is marked as private and covered with barrier tape and/or cones. The Court will also note that this driving can in no way be considered “carriage of passengers or goods”. Based on Kosa’s explanation, the driving consisted solely of moving a truck from one end of the terminal building to the other in order to access the water outlet as well as the parking lot. Therefore, this driving was not carried out in connection with “passenger or freight traffic” and is not subject to the rules for the use of the tachograph. Therefore, there can be no requirement that Kosa use a driver card, and therefore he cannot be punished for this“ – Decision of the district court Follo and Nordre Østfold.

As a result, we can say that the court came to the conclusion that there was no violation of the accepted standards of work and rest for the driver. For this reason, Vegard Kosa must be fully “acquitted of indictment”.

The publication sent a letter to the Norwegian Public Roads Administration asking them to comment on the decision of the District Court Follo and Nordre Ostfold in the case of Vegard Kos. In particular, the question was asked, will there now be any changes in how inspectors interpret instructions, or will the instructions themselves change?

“External Control is in the process of reviewing the District Court’s decision and will then evaluate what this may say about our control practices, including the wording of control instructions. This is what we do with all decisions and decisions made by administrative appeal bodies.” – Roy H. Holm, Head of External Inspection at the Norwegian Public Roads Authority

Recall that last fall, a 27-year-old truck driver from the Norwegian city of Notodden was punished for washing his truck during a 45-hour rest.