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International Road Transport Operations in Germany


 

Operational Activities

Cabotage
UK hauliers may carry goods to, through or from the country, goods can also be carried from Germany to a third country and vice versa if permitted by the terms of any agreement between the three countries. Cabotage is permitted.

Dangerous Goods
Germany is a party to ADR, however, there are restrictions on the movement of Dangerous Goods on bridges and in tunnels.

 
 
Tunnel Name Road Number / Location Tunnel Category
Wallring Hamburg Altstadt E
Alsterkrugchausee Hamburg Knoten / Alsterkrugchausee / Sengelmannstrasse E from 06:00 to 21:00
C at all other times
CCH Tunnel Hamburg Vorfahrsbauwerk am Congress Centrum E
Elbtunnel A7 Hamburg E from 05:00 to 23:00
C at all other times
Krohnstiegtunnel Hamburg Niendord E from 06:00 to 21:00
C at all other times
Heidkopftunnel A38 Niedersachsen E
Emstunnel A31 Niedersachsen B
Tunnel Bad Godesburg B9 Bonn Nad Godesburh (Nordrhein Westfalen) E
Alte Burg A71 Thuringen E
Rennsteig A71 Thuringen E
Hochwald A71 Thuringen E
Berg Bock A71 Thuringen E

Abnormal Loads
Special authorisations are required for all abnormal load movements which exceed German vehicle dimensions (including weight). Applications for authorisations must be made to the local transport authority 'Strassenverkehrsamt' closest to the point of entry into the country.


                     
 

  

Customs
TIR carnets are permitted for loads crossing Germany. ATA carnets are accepted for certain temporary imports. CMR documents should be used.

Movement Restrictions
There are movement restrictions for all commercial vehicles of 7.5 tonnes and over and also for commercial vehicles of 3.5 tonnes that are pulling trailers on Sundays and Public Holidays from 00:00 to 22:00. These restrictions are applicable to the entire road network.

 
   
   
Remember there are also regional holidays in Germany, therefore please check the region you are travelling to

Vehicle/load exemptions
The following exemptions are applicable;

  • Intermodal road/rail transports from the shipper to the nearest suitable loading rail station or from the nearest suitable unloading rail station to the consignee, but only up to a distance of 200km;
  • Transportation of fresh milk and fresh dairy products, fresh meat and fresh meat products, fresh fish, live fish and fresh fish products, perishable fruit and vegetables;
  • Saddle vehicles (independent of weight) that are exclusively used to pull other vehicles;
  • Saddle vehicles with a legal maximum weight of up to 7.5 tonne (these are classified as trucks without trailers);
  • Vehicles where the load is part of the vehicle`s inventory (e.g. exhibition and film set units)

Additional Driving Bans
The following information concerns additional driving bans and Holiday Regulations affecting commercial vehicles. These additional restrictions are on Saturdays during the periods from 1st July - 31st August between the hours of 07:00 to 20:00 are concern all Trucks with a legal maximum weight over 7.5 tonne plus trailer independent of weight.

Also affected are the German Federal highways outside of closed localities in both driving directions.


                     
 

  

Night Driving Restrictions
On some routes in Germany there are also Night Time driving restrictions, which are indicated by roadsigns and generally include a ban on all vehicles 7.5 tonnes and over.

Low Emmission Zones
Since March 2007, many german cities have introduced LEZ's. There are 4 emmission categories, which are determined by the year of registration of the vehicle or the vehicles Euro engine specification as follows:

Category Euro Engine Specification
Category 1 Euro 0 or Euro 1 - No Sticker
Category 2 Euro 1 or Euro 2 With Particle Filter - Red Sticker
Category 3 Euro 2 or Euro 3 With Particle Filter - Yellow Sticker
Category 4 Euro 3 or Euro 4 With Particle Filter - Green Sticker

Emmission stickers must be displayed at all times and are available for purchase (€5 - €10) from Vehicle Test Stations or authorised garages. Stickers are valid for an unlimited period.

                     
 

  
                     
 

  
Cities with LEZ Euro Engine Requirement Introduced from
Berlin Euro 4 only January 2010
Hannover Euro 4 only January 2010
Cologne (Köln) Euro 3 and 4 January 2010
Stuttgart Currently 2, 3 and 4 From January 2012 only Euro 3 and 4 permitted
Tübingen Currently 2, 3 and 4 From January 2012 only Euro 3 and 4 permitted
There are many other towns and cities affected by LEZ's including, Ilsfeld, Leonberg, Ludwigsberg, Mannheim, Reutlingen, Frankfurt/Main and Münich. For an EU wide map showing LEZ's go to www.lowemissionzones.eu

Maut accounts (Germany) - Online Purchase Road Tolls

Germany's LKW-MAUT (Lorry Toll) is a government tax for trucks based on the distance driven in kilometres, number of axles and the emission category of the vehicle. The MAUT system is a GPS-based toll system, there are no toll booths or plazas on the highways instead this system works via the following methods;

  • On Board Units (OBU);
  • Manual payment terminals; or
  • Via the internet.

Manual payment is available for those vehicles not equipped with an OBU, of which there are over 3,500 toll payment terminals at motorway service stations, border locations or rest areas where drivers can enter the details of their journey and pay the toll in advance by cash (Euros only), or by using a credit or fuel card.

OBU's work via GPS and the on-board odometer or tachograph as a back-up to determine how far trucks have travelled by reference to a digital map and GSM to authorise the payment of the toll via a wireless link.

Key Information
Key Information
If for any reason a driver is required to divert off the given route, then he/she must stop and re-book the new route.

In addition to 300 toll checker gantries strategically located throughout the country, Toll Enforcement also relies on mobile patrols, consisting of a fleet of 300 vehicles with 540 officers of the Federal Office of Freight (BAG). The officers patrol the autobahns, checking vehicles and drivers to ensure they have paid the toll or have the OBU installed. BAG vehicles are equipped with an infrared short range DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communications) system that can be used to scan and monitor trucks in motion. The BAG have police powers to request trucks to stop for examination at any point during their journey.

The autobahn system gantries are also equipped with IR detection equipment and high resolution cameras, which are able to pick out trucks via profiling (and record number plates). These units send a DSRC signal to a corresponding transponder (which is part of the OBU) in the lorry to check on the accuracy of the GPS as a back-up and also alert BAG officers to any toll violations. The OBU is also able to work with the new Galileo satellite system for positioning which is being developed in Europe as a more accurate alternative to GPS.

                     
 

  

Bridge and Tunnel Tolls
We are aware of only 2 toll tunnels within Germany, both of which are located in the north of the country with the Herren Tunnel in the district of Schleswig-Holstein and the Warnow in the district of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

  • Herren Tunnel (B75) - connects Lûbeck and Travemûnde - www.herrentunnel.de Vehicles carrying Dangerous Goods are not permitted in the Herren Tunnel
  • Warnow Tunnel (B105) - connects East/West banks of Warnow river in Rostock - www.warnowquerung.com

Vehicle Requirements

Documentation
Green Card required, plus original vehicle registration docs. A GB plate must be fitted to rear of vehicle/trailer.

It should be noted that in many EU Countries a Trailer Registration Certificate is a requirement. In all cases, this is a National Requirement, not an EU one. Certificates can be obtained from Vosa Technical Services - 01792 458888.

Road Safety
The following items of equipment or national requirements apply to all commercial vehicle in Germany.

  • Warning Triangles are compulsory and in the event of a breakdown, must be placed 100 metres behind the vehicle on ordinary roads and 250 metres on motorways
  • Spare bulbs must be carried
  • Two independent flashing amber lamps must be carried on vehicles exceeding 2.5 tonnes. In the event of a breakdown, they must be placed behind and in front of the vehicle
  • First Aid Kits are compulsory
  • Snow Chains and 'M+S' tyres must be fitted on drive axles on snow covered roads in compliance with road sign direction. When snow chains are fitted, the speed limit is reduced to 50kms
  • A spade, pick and tow rope should be carried in the winter months
  • Tyre tread depth is 1.6 millimetres

Load Safety
The German enforcement authority (BAG) will check loads on commercial vehicles for load security. Where vehicles are deemed to have insufficient load restraint, vehicles will be prevented from further movement until the load is secured according to the enforcement officers satisfaction.

With more and more EU member states implementing Load Safety Best Practice and penalising operators/drivers for failure to implement. We advise operators to read the EU Load Safety Guidelines, which can be downloaded from the EU commissions website here European Guidelines on Cargo Security/Load Safety. You can also refer to the Load Security page within the Construction & Use/Loads section of this website.

                     
 

  
Maximum Weights & Dimensions
Height 4 Metres
Width 2.55 metres (Fridges 2.6 metres)
Length Artic 16.5 metres
Road Train 18.75 metres
Car Transporter 20.75 metres
Weight Artic 40 tonnes
Combined Transports up to 44 tonnes
There are also various maximum permitted weights on vehicles, trailers and road trains which are applicable according to the number of axles.

Driver Requirements

Legal Documents
Full passport required but no visa required. Full UK driving Licence. Letter from employer giving driver permission to drive vehicle - Attestation letter and form.

Log Books
Drivers of commercial vehicles between 2.8 and 3.5 tonnes must observe the EU Hours rules. For those vehicles not fitted with a Tachograph, Log Books must be used at all times.

Speed Limits

Vehicles Concerned Built-Up Areas (kms) Outside Built-Up Areas (kms) Motorways (kms)
All Trucks 3.5 tonnes to 7.5 tonnes 50 80 80
Trucks over 7.5 tonnes 50 60 80
Combined Transports over 3.5 tonnes 50 60 80

Country Contact Info

British Embassy
Wilhelmstrasse 70, D-10117 Berlin. Tel: +49 30 204570 Website:
www.ukingermany.fco.gov.uk
Transport Organisation
Bundesverband Güterkraftverkehr Logistik und Entsorgung (BGL) e.V. Breitenbachstraße 1, 60487 Frankfurt am Main
Tel: +49 (069) 79 19-0 Website:
www.bgl-ev.de

                     
 

Driving restrictions in Europe on specific days and times

Some European countries impose different driving restrictions for heavy vehicles on weekends and public holidays. Here you can find details for driving bans valid in 2015.

GERMANY

Driving ban applies all year long to the entire national road network for vehicles with a legal maximum weight exceeding 7.5 tons and semi-trailers between 00:00 and 22:00 on Sundays and public holidays.

     
  • Intermodal road/rail transports from the shipper to the nearest suitable loading rail station to the consignee, but only up to a distance of 200 km.
  • Intermodal transports in ports between the loading/unloading stations, but only up to a distance of 150 km.
  • Transportation of:
    • fresh milk and fresh dairy products,
    • fresh meal and fresh meat products,
    • fresh fish and fresh fish products,
    • perishable fruit and vegetables.
  • Transports of empty vehicles for the carriage of products (see previous item).
  • Transports of vehicles, which are used for the federal authorities. Such vehicles should be accompanied with the permission documents that are to be shown to the authorities on request.
     
  • New Year
  • Good Friday
  • Easter
  • Labour Day
  • Ascension Day
  • Whit Monday
  • Corpus Christi (for states Baden-Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland)
  • German Unity Day
  • Reformation Day (for states Brandenburg, Meklenburg-Vorpommern, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland)
  • All Saints (for states Baden-Wurttemberg, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland)
  • Christmas

AUSTRIA
  • Saturdays between 15:00 and midnight
  • Sundays and weekends between 00:00 and 22:00.

Driving night ban applies all year long to the entire national road network for vehicles with a legal maximum weight exceeding 7.5 tons between 22:00 and 05:00.

Also, from 1 July to 31 August special rules for driving during holidays are applied.

    These restrictions do not apply to:
  • road services and Federal Army vehicles
  • low-noise motor vehicles (with confirmation from the truck manufacturer and certificate of control every 2 years) with the L-sign next to the front plate attached.

Besides, these motor vehicles should have maximum speed of 60 km per hour, unless otherwise is stated by appropriate road signs.

FRANCE
    Driving ban applies all year long to the entire national road network for trucks with a legal maximum weight above 7.5 tons:
  • on weekends from Saturday 22:00 till Sunday 22:00
  • during all public holidays, and day prior to a public holiday from 22:00 till 22:00 accordingly.

BELGIUM

No driving bans on Sundays and public holidays.

SWIZERLAND
  • trucks with a legal maximum weight above 3.5 tons (apart from vehicles used for passenger transports), tractor units
  • trailer units with a legal maximum weight above 5 tons, apart from agricultural vehicles.
  • New Year
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday
  • Ascension Say
  • Whit Monday
  • National Day
  • Christmas
  • St. Stefan Day

If any of these days is not a public holiday in a canton or part of a canton, the Sunday driving ban will not apply there either. Driving bans in a canton is not applied to the transit traffic.

Driving bans are also imposed on hazardous goods transport through tunnels.

The night driving ban applies from 22:00 to 05:00 for all vehicles with a legal maximum weight exceeding 3.5 tones (apart from vehicles used for passenger transports), as well as for trucks, tractor units, industry vehicles with a legal maximum weight exceeding 5 tones.

DENMARK

No general driving ban on Sundays and public holidays. In Copenhagen, there is nightly driving ban for trucks with a legal maximum weight over 3.5 tones between 19:00 and 07:00.

SPAIN
  • Sundays and public holidays from 08:00 till midnight
  • On the day prior to a public holiday from 13:00 till midnight.

On connector roads to and from Madrid and Barcelona there are special traffic restrictions on Sundays and holidays.

FINLAND

No driving ban on Sundays and public holidays.

GREAT BRITAIN
  • Monday to Friday 21:00 – 07:00
  • Weekends from Saturday 13:00 till Monday 07:00

HUNGARY
  • 1 September – 14 June on Sundays between 08:00 and 22:00
  • 15 June – 31 August Saturdays 08:00 till 22:00 Sundays, holidays from 08:00 till 22:00.

ITALY
  • from January to April/from November to December between 08:00 and 20:00
  • from May to September between 07:00 and 24:00.

LUXEMBOURG
  • from Saturday 21:30 to Sunday 21:45
  • all public holidays, and day prior to a public holiday from 21:30 to 21:45 accordingly.

NORWAY

No driving ban on Sundays and public holidays.

NETHERLANDS

No driving ban on Sundays and public holidays.

SWEDEN

No driving ban on Sundays and public holidays.

 

  

Truck driving bans

In Germany, trucks over 7.5 tons admissible total weight and all trucks and cars with trailers are subject to a driving ban from midnight to 10 p.m. on Sundays and on legal holidays. 

Legal holidays differ in the various federal states. If a day is not a legal holiday Germany-wide, the ban is limited to the states in which it is a holiday: Transit is thus not possible unless the route is subject to a blanket exception.

Likewise, a driving ban applies to certain routes on all Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the period from July 1 to August 31. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure regularly publishes the affected roads.

The Federal Office for Goods Transport provides information about the German truck driving ban (German language). Bans also exist in other EU countries. Further information can be found here (in German language).

2015
G 01.01.2015 (Do.) Neujahr
G* 06.01.2015 (Di.) Heilige Drei Könige
14.02.2015 (Sa.) Valentinstag
16.02.2015 (Mo.) Rosenmontag
17.02.2015 (Di.) Fastnacht
18.02.2015 (Mi.) Aschermittwoch
G 03.04.2015 (Fr.) Karfreitag
05.04.2015 (So.) Ostern
G 06.04.2015 (Mo.) Ostermontag
G 01.05.2015 (Fr.) Maifeiertag
10.05.2015 (So.) Muttertag
G 14.05.2015 (Do.) Christi Himmelfahrt
24.05.2015 (So.) Pfingstsonntag
G 25.05.2015 (Mo.) Pfingstmontag
G* 04.06.2015 (Do.) Fronleichnam
G* 08.08.2015 (Sa.) Friedensfest
G* 15.08.2015 (Sa.) Mariä Himmelfahrt
G 03.10.2015 (Sa.) Tag der Deutschen Einheit
04.10.2015 (So.) Erntedankfest
31.10.2015 (Sa.) Halloween
G* 31.10.2015 (Sa.) Reformationstag
G* 01.11.2015 (So.) Allerheiligen
15.11.2015 (So.) Volkstrauertag
G* 18.11.2015 (Mi.) Buß- und Bettag
22.11.2015 (So.) Totensonntag
29.11.2015 (So.) 1. Advent
04.12.2015 (Fr.) Barbara
06.12.2015 (So.) 2. Advent
06.12.2015 (So.) Nikolaus
13.12.2015 (So.) 3. Advent
20.12.2015 (So.) 4. Advent
24.12.2015 (Do.) Heiligabend
G 25.12.2015 (Fr.) 1. Weihnachtstag
G 26.12.2015 (Sa.) 2. Weihnachtstag
31.12.2015 (Do.) Silvester
                     
 



  

New EU rules tell truck drivers to work less, take more breaks

(BRUSSELS) - New EU-wide regulations came into force on Wednesday restricting the working week for lorry and coach drivers and requiring longer rest stops.

Among the new measures is an obligatory rest of at least 45 consecutive hours every two weeks and a working week of no more than 60 hours, including loading and unloading.

"The application of the new social rules is an important milestone for Europe's road transport sector," said EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot.

"This is clearly a win-win situation: the drivers will enjoy important social advances, the transport companies will compete on equal grounds and all road users will benefit from better safety."

The new rules, adopted by EU member states and the European Parliament in 2005, amends 1985 legislation which allowed a 74-hour driving week for professional drivers.

Now, over a four-month period drivers mustn't work more than 48 hours a week on average.

Minimum rest times are fixed at 11 hours per day, including nine hours consecutively.

Drivers must also take a total of 45 minutes rest for every four and a half hours of driving.

The rules are a minimum requirement and member states are free to impose further restrictions.

They are aimed at "increasing road safety and ensuring adequate social standards in a profession characterised by fierce competition," the European Commission said in a statement.

The binding rules apply, irrespective of the country where the vehicles are registered.

                     
 

  

Driving in Germany

It's true: there are no speed limits on many sections of German autobahns. But there are plenty of other regulations you should be aware of.

Driving in Germany can be a delight: the scenery is beautiful and the roads are well maintained. But there are many rules and regulations to observe.

Getting a German Driver's License

Your own driver's license is valid in Germany, at least at the outset. If it was issued by a European Union country, you will never need to exchange it for a German one. If it was issued by a country outside the EU, you can only use it for six months from your date of arrival. If you will be residing in Germany for longer than six months but less than one year, you can obtain a six-month extension to use your existing license.

A national of a non-EU country who will be living in Germany longer than a year will need a German driver's license (Führerschein). In many cases this is a simple matter of exchanging the license for a German one. In other cases it will be necessary to take a written exam, a driving test, or both.

You can simply exchange your license if you come from Canada or the U.S. states of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington State, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

If you come from Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee or Washington D.C. you will need to take the written test, but not the driving test.

In order to get a German driver's license based on a license from any state in the USA, you must have had your stateside license for at least six months before coming to Germany. The German authorities may ask for some sort of proof of that.

If your license is from South Africa or any of the U.S. states not listed, you will most likely be required to take both the written and driving examination. If your license is from New Zealand you may be required to take the written examination depending on which classification of license you now hold or wish to get. If you come from Australia you will most likely be able to directly exchange your license for a German one. There may be an extra requirement for a vision test, depending on which territory issued your current license.

To find out the specific requirements for exchanging a license it is best to contact the local authorities.

The written test, which covers such things as rules of the road and traffic signs, can be taken in a number of languages, including English. It's taken at a drivers' school (Fahrschule), so let them know in advance what language you prefer. Be warned, the test is tough, and 30% of the people who take it fail to pass it on the first try. So you should study for it. There is a book in English, Lehrbuch Englisch (Fahren Lernen B), that many find a big help. You can buy it from a driving school for about €50, or you may find used copies being offered on line.

The test is multiple choice, but there isn't necessarily only one correct answer to each question. Some or all of the answers may be correct. You can get an idea of what it is like, in English with the correct answers checked, at www.osterberger.org/test.html.

Fahrschule cars for the driving examination are equipped with dual controls so that the instructor can take over any time the student gets into serious trouble. The law sets minimum durations and mileage for each aspect of the driving instruction: at least 225 minutes and 50 kilometers per session on highways or country roads: at least 135 minutes on the Autobahn with each journey lasting at least 45 minutes, and 90 minutes for driving in twilight or darkness, half of this on highways or country roads.

Those attending a driving school won't necessarily be treated as beginning drivers. Many schools have set up simplified courses for experienced drivers, which will cost you about €500 as opposed to the over €1,400 - €1,500 that a beginner would have to pay. If a school tells you it doesn't offer such a course, find one that does.

The driver's license is issued by an agency of the local police. To exchange your license you should take it to your local driver's registration office (Führerscheinstelle). You should have a certified translation. You can get a translation from the ADAC automobile club. (Their office in Hesse charges €36 for members and €46 for non-members.) A person must present an application, a passport, a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis), two passport-sized photos, proof of attendance at a Fahrschule if required, proof of completion of a first aid course and certification of a vision test which either an optometrist or the Technische Überwachungsverein (TüV) may administer.

Some Americans who work and live in the German states of Hamburg, Hesse, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein and Saarland may now have it easier. In some cases it may be possible to convert licenses without any written or driving exam no matter what US state they come from. The rules differ somewhat in each of those four German states. In some cases your work must be with an American firm, and in some cases spouses are not allowed to make the simple conversion.

Go to www.amcham.de/services/drivers-license/us-citizens-in-germany.html or check with the local authorities for more information on this and a complete list of the States that have reciprocal agreements with Germany.

This may seem quite a hassle, but once you've weathered the storm you'll have a license that's good for a long time. All German driver licenses issued before 2013 are valid until December 31, 2032. As of 2013 licenses will be valid for 15 years.

Vehicle Registration

When visiting the local motor vehicle registry (Autozulassungsstelle) a person needs proof of ownership, proof of insurance and, if the car was purchased in Germany, the Kraftfahrzeugbrief, a document that is supposed to accompany the car through all owners from assembly line to scrap yard. The new or used car dealer from whom the car was purchased will usually handle the registration.

The vehicle must also pass a safety inspection. Tests are conducted by the Technischer Überwachungsverein nationwide. Cars that were purchased new must be inspected after three years, and thereafter all cars must be inspected at two-year intervals.

Laws governing the condition of cars and motorcycles are strict. The engine, chassis, frame and all other components, including brakes, tires, horn, wheel alignment, windshield, lights and mirrors will be checked. Vehicles that fail inspection usually do so because of rust or faulty lights, exhaust, brakes or tires. The basic rule is that if an item is mounted on the vehicle, it must function and be completely serviceable even if not essential to operation.

Car Insurance

Before a person can register a car in Germany he or she must have proof of third party liability coverage for all damage or injury to another person, car or object. While collision or comprehensive insurance isn't required by law, most institutions financing the purchase of a vehicle do require it. This can raise the insurance bill considerably, and insurance is not cheap in Germany.

There are numerous factors in addition to coverage that influence the insurance price. Beginning drivers pay more than experienced drivers; those driving big, powerful cars pay more than those with more modest vehicles; those living in urban areas pay more than those in rural areas, and those who have been found liable in accidents pay more than those who haven't.

If you have a good driving record in your home country you can get credit for it here. Get a letter from your insurance agent back home. If the German agent says you can't get this credit try another agent. Some insurance agents in Germany are geared to getting the expatriate through these complexities.

Traffic Laws

Don't let the high speeds on German roads fool you into believing that there are no reduced speed zones. There are, in fact, many sections of the German Autobahns that have speed limits. The speed limits are prominently posted in heavily traveled sections of Autobahns around cities. You'll also see speed limit signs on other seemingly open parts of the Autobahns in the countryside. So, keep an eye open for them. Usually, speeders will not be stopped at the time of the offense but will get a speeding ticket through the mail. This may be as long as two or three months after the incident. The German police use special cameras to catch speeders. Persons exceeding the limits by more than 30 kilometers an hour can count on losing licenses for a period of up to three months, plus a stiff fine. (See the sidebar.)

A tough, computerized point system is used to get dangerous drivers off the road. Increasingly strict penalties are the order of the day especially where drugs or alcohol are involved, and especially if there was an accident. Except where posted because of construction or traffic problems, there are no speed limits on the autobahns, although the recommended maximum is 130kph (about 80mph).

A mixture of slow-moving trucks and high-speed autos are on the same roads at the same time and defensive driving is a must. Autobahn chain-reaction pileups occur periodically, partly because of high speeds. The most common causes of accidents involving expatriates are failing to yield the right-of-way, following too closely and failure to maintain control. Accidents occurring at speeds of over 130 kph on the autobahns can result in insurance payment claims being annulled regardless of who was at fault.

The basic speed limit is 50kph (about 30mph) in built-up areas and 100kph (about 60mph) elsewhere. If you are hauling a trailer the speed limit is 80kph (50mph) on roads and autobahns.

If you see a blinking yellow light at an intersection it means stop, then proceed if the intersection is clear. Run a red light and you'll probably be caught: many intersections have radar-controlled cameras hooked up to traffic lights.

All vehicles in Germany are required to have serviceable seat belts for all persons in the car, including those riding in the back seat. And the law requires that they be worn. There is a €30 on-the-spot fine for each person in a car not using a seat belt. An exception is made for back-seat passengers in older-model cars that didn't originally come equipped with rear seat belts. Children under 12 are not allowed to ride in the front seat of a car and must use car seats certified by the German government.

There is no general rule in Germany that prohibits passing in an intersection. The driver making a left turn must therefore check for rear traffic at least twice and, because of the rearview mirror's "blind spot," should not rely on it alone.

In Germany, a driver can be forced to submit to a blood test. The blood alcohol limit is 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per milliliter of whole blood. Persons exceeding this limit will be fined and face a license suspension of up to three months for the first offense. Just how many drinks it takes to give a person a 0.5 blood alcohol count depends on size and other factors, but two small beers, a quarter of a liter of wine or a jigger of hard liquor will probably get one close.

German law requires that all automobiles have a portable red reflective triangle and a first aid kit in their trunk. If a car is stopped for any reason, the triangle must be placed 200 meters behind it if on the autobahn and 100 meters behind it on all other roads. The car's emergency flashers should also be turned on. You can only pass vehicles on the left. There's a stiff fine for passing on the right.

Driving with parking lights alone is prohibited. You must use your headlights (low-beam) at night and during inclement weather. Motorcyclists must wear helmets and drive with the headlight on at all times. The Germans also have a complicated right of way rule. Unless otherwise posted, the driver coming from the right at an intersection has the right of way. Just because you are on what looks to be a major road, you may not be on the "priority" road. A diamond-shaped sign (yellow in the center surrounded by a white border) tells you if you are on a priority road.

The yield sign is an inverted triangle with a red border and white interior and means that you must yield the right-of-way. You don't have to stop, though, if the way is clear. An eight-sided stop sign means that you must first come to a complete stop before proceeding.

Traffic calming zones (Verkehrsberuhigungenzone), indicated by a sign showing a pedestrian and a child kicking a ball, are often found in residential areas. In them playing children may use the entire street and traffic must stop for pedestrians and move at no more than 7kph.

You must stop for anyone using, or preparing to use, a white-striped "zebra" pedestrian crossing.

Round blue signs with white arrows inside them show permitted directions of travel. For example, if there are arrows pointing both up and to the right it means you have your choice of straight ahead or right, but left is prohibited. If there is a single arrow pointing left it means "left turn only."

If you're involved in an accident, do not leave the scene. As the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident you must remain at the scene for at least 30 minutes before leaving, if alone. If you are involved in an accident with others, you must exchange personal and insurance information. Leaving the scene of an accident can lead to severe financial penalties and, depending on whether personal injury to others or extensive property damage is involved, you could be incarcerated or lose your license.

Failure to pay traffic violations (citations for parking in clearly marked "no parking" zones or parking in a handicap space and other relatively small infractions) can lead to imprisonment. If the violations date back far enough and failure to pay is constant, your final payment will be a hefty fine (known as Bussgeld), accompanied by loss of your license and quite possibly a "go straight to jail" card.

Some fines may be collected on the spot, provided the driver has enough ready cash on hand; otherwise, your name and address will be taken and a ticket will be mailed to you later with an accompanying payment slip.

It is generally difficult to find a place to park during working hours, though in many cases you may be able to park in the evening at places where it's barred during the day. Be forewarned: German towing fees are very high! Round signs with red borders and a blue interior and an "X" mean no parking or stopping whatsoever. Similar signs with a single diagonal line mean restricted parking, or parking for a limit of three minutes only. Signs with only a red border and white middle mean no vehicles of any type are permitted.

Motorists may not pass a bus that signals with its blinker that it is approaching one of its stops. Once the bus has stopped it's OK to pass it, but at what the Germans call Schrittempo. That means moving so slowly that the needle on your speedometer doesn't register. Cars headed in the opposite direction must also use Schrittempo when a bus is stopped with its blinker going. This is because of the danger that people, particularly children, may try to cross the street in an effort to catch the bus. If any do, the car must stop and let them cross.

Driving on snow-covered roads is permitted only if your car is equipped with the proper tires. There are dedicated winter tires as well as all weather tires that may be acceptable. Use of regular summer tires in snowy or icy conditions can result in a fine and, much worse, loss of your insurance coverage in the event of an accident. Check with your local mechanic, dealership or repair shop to make sure you have the proper tires on you car.

                     
 

  
                     
 

  

Driving time and rest periods

Regulation (EC) 561/2006 provides a common set of EU rules for maximum daily and fortnightly driving times, as well as daily and weekly minimum rest periods for all drivers of road haulage and passenger transport vehicles, subject to specified exceptions and national derogations. The scope of operations regulated is tremendously diverse, it includes: passenger transport and road haulage operations, both international and national, long and short distance, drivers for own account and for hire and reward, employees and self-employed.

The aim of this set of rules is to avoid distortion of competition, improve road safety and ensure drivers' good working conditions within the European Union.

These rules establish that:

  • Daily driving period shall not exceed 9 hours, with an exemption of twice a week when it can be extended to 10 hours.
  • Total weekly driving time may not exceed 56 hours and the total fortnightly driving time may not exceed 90 hours.
  • Daily rest period shall be at least 11 hours, with an exception of going down to 9 hours maximum three times a week. Daily rest can be split into 3 hours rest followed by 9 hour rest to make a total of 12 hours daily rest
  • Weekly rest is 45 continuous hours, which can be reduced every second week to 24 hours. Compensation arrangements apply for reduced weekly rest period. Weekly rest is to be taken after six days of working, except for coach drivers engaged in a single occasional service of international transport of passengers who may postpone their weekly rest period after 12 days in order to facilitate coach holidays.
  • Breaks of at least 45 minutes (separable into 15 minutes followed by 30 minutes) should be taken after 4 ½ hours at the latest.

The compliance with these provisions is subject to continuous monitoring and controls, which are carried out on national and international level via checking tachograpgh records at the road side and at the premises of undertakings.

Reporting from the Commission

Every two years the Commission prepares a report based on information submitted by Member States regarding the implementation of the EU social legislation in the two-year period. This concerns the rules on driving times, breaks and rest periods established by Regulation (EC) No 561/2006 and the working time provisions laid down in Directive 2002/15/EC . The national data include the number of controls carried out at the roadside and at the premises of companies, the number and types of offences detected, the number of undertakings and drivers checked and others. The current report covers the period 2011-2012. The next report will cover the years 2013-2014. Member States are expected to submit their national statistics on the application of the social rules by 30 September 2015.

Latest report [COM(2014) 709] on the implementation in 2011-2012 of Regulation (EC) No 561/2006 on the harmonisation of certain social legislation relating to road transport and of Directive 2002/15/EC on the organisation of the working time of persons performing mobile road transport activities (27th report from the Commission on the implementation of the social legislation relating to road transport).

Commission staff working document [SWD(2014) 342] accompanying the report.

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the application of the derogation provided in Article 8(6a) of Regulation (EC) No 561/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council (12-day rule), COM(2014) 337

This report follows the monitoring requirement set out in Article 8(6a) of Regulation (EC) No 561/2006 on driving times and rest periods. It provides for an overview of the use by Member States of the so called "12-day rule" derogation allowing drivers to postpone their weekly rest, if specific conditions are fulfilled. The report is based on information submitted by Member States to the Commission.

Note to users: In the last paragraph of Section 3 of the Report there is a reference made to Annex II. Please note that there are no annexes to this report, as adopted by the Commission. An overview of the answers to the questionnaire on the use of 12-day derogation is available on request at the following functional mailbox: move-d3-secretariat@ec.europa.eu

National exceptions from drivers' hours rules

Article 13 (1) of Regulation (EC) No 561/2006 sets out a list of possible national derogations from application of provisions on driving times, breaks and rest periods (Articles 5 to 9 of the Regulation). It is within the competency of each Member States to decide whether any of the listed possible national derogations will be granted or not.

Overview of national derogations granted by several Member States pdf - 70 KB [70 KB]

Article 14 (2) of the Regulation stipulates that Member States may grant in urgent cases exceptions from the application of Articles 6 to 9 up to maximum 30 days to transport operations carried out in exceptional circumstances. This table gives an overview of the exemptions notified to the Commission in accordance with Articles 14 (2).

Temporary relaxation of drivers pdf - 156 KB [156 KB]

The Court of Justice of the European Union judgements concerning social rules in road transport

Certain Court judgments under earlier legislation which has been repealed remain relevant as interpretative guidance on key provisions carried over into the current legislation. However, the relevance of Court rulings for the application and interpretation of Regulation 561/2006 should be assessed on a case by case basis.

Overview of Court rulings related to the social rules in road transport pdf - 185 KB [185 KB]

                     
 

  
                     
 



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