Thursday, 3 October 2013

Taking rally cars around, anyone? - CJEU in Lundberg (C-317/12)

No need for you to install a tachograph, as long as it is your car that you're carrying and you're not doing that for a living. 

For those who, like me until this morning, have little idea
of what a tachograph looks like
That's in short what the Court of Justice decided today in the Lundberg case. Mr Lundberg, a Swedish national and amateur rally driver, was taking his rally car to a fair- by using an extra lorry attached to his normal car- when the police stopped him and issued a fine for violating article 3 of Regulation 3821/85 (now and hence Regulation 561/2006).
The provision at hand requires certain equipment to be installed on vehicles unless they belong to one of the categories listed by the same article. 

After a few passages, the question got to the CJEU by means of a preliminary ruling request. In particular, it was in doubt whether Mr Lundberg's situation could fall under letter h) of article 3, exempting "vehicles or combinations of vehicles with a maximum permissible mass not exceeding 7.5 tonnes used for the non-commercial carriage of goods". The main reason of doubt was that some companies and private persons contribute habitually and substantially to Mr Lundberg's activities by means of various sponsorships. Did this change the nature of the carrying activity into a "commercial" one?

According to the Court,  it does not. Interpreting the regulation both according to it literal meaning and to its aims, having regard to both the regulation's and the exception's functions, the Court affirms that carriage of goods has to be understood "non-commercial" every time that it is done solely for the purpose of a hobby, regardless of the extent to which the carriage is financially supported by sponsors. 

The purpose of Regulation 561/2006 is mainly "to improve social conditions for employees who are covered by it" (par. 25) and, by doing so, to make road transport safer. The derogation, on the other side, aims to exclude activities conducted "outside any professional and commercial activity" from the regulated domain. The latter's aim would be frustrated if cases like that of Mr Lundberg's were to be affected by the regulation; at the same time, the regulation's aims are not offended by applying the exemption (cases of this king being "infrequent"- par. 37-, applying the derogation seems unlikely to have serious consequences on road safety.).

Thus, just in case you were thinking of moving your rally car around Europe, rest assured- the Court is protecting you against sour (regulatory) surprises.

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