The Belarusian truck driver of the Polish Transport Company, who was picked up on December 29 by the Thuringian motorway police at the rest stop at the Hermsdorfer Kreuz on the A4, had 3.58 per mille in his blood. He was walking on the highway. The 38-year-old man was taken to a Jena hospital by police. The driver has been “on call” since December 23, spending the whole Christmas Day alone in a truck.
“It can be assumed that only regular consumption of high-percentage drinks, which has been trained over the years, leads to this drinking behavior,” says Oldenburg traffic psychologist Thomas Pirke. “Eastern European countries have traditionally had the highest levels of alcohol consumption in the world.”
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The Federal Office for the Carriage of Goods (BAG) must take care of the report as a fine for foreign carriers and their drivers. According to a police report, the truck driver violated the ban on spending regular weekly rest in the truck. “Today, Eastern European drivers spend weeks and months on our roads,” says Pirke. “They have been separated from their families for a very long time – with all sorts of related problems.”
During prescribed rest periods, many drivers raised the bottle to bridge the waiting time. However, the driver from Belarus could keep his driver’s license. He didn’t drive. In principle, foreign lorry drivers can only be prosecuted if they are caught in a lorry themselves.
A problem known since 2016
Like the Ukrainian driver who damaged the trucks, he parked there on Christmas Day at the truck stop on the A14. According to the police, it turned out to be a good two per mille. The driver’s license was confiscated. Nothing against the case on December 14 on the A2 near Braunschweig. According to a police report, he was walking west in a snake way when he was stopped by the highway police. At the request of Tagesspiegel Background, it was also a driver from Belarus on a truck of a Polish transport company – with a record 4.92 per mille. The driver was not allowed to continue driving, the vehicle keys and driver’s license were secured.
For the first time in 2016, the trade press mentioned the problem of alcohol among Eastern European truck drivers under the name “Sobering Balance”. But it was not until 2017 that the Gau-Bickelheim motorway police started on the A61 motorway and then the Mannheim traffic police around the Walldorf junction on the A5 and A6 motorways with preventive departure checks on Sunday evening, ie on a tank almost exclusively used by drivers at the time. trucks from Eastern Europe – and rest stops.
A new event every week
Dieter Schäfer, director of the traffic police in Mannheim until the beginning of 2020, came to a frightening conclusion: “It took a long time for the motorway police to notice that the problem with alcohol imports is growing on German motorways, especially for Eastern European truck drivers,” he says. Schäfer, who now works voluntarily in the “Hellwach mit 80 km / h” association, which he co-founded to prevent truck accidents.
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Virtually every week there is an incident like the end of the year. “Two percent of the drivers we checked between 2018 and 2019 had a breath alcohol concentration of at least 1.6 to 4.7 per thousand,” says Schäfer. He extrapolated the alcohol problem and talks about some 6,400 truck drivers from Eastern Europe who apparently drink alcohol in Europe’s largest transit country.
Measured by toll data, they make only 0.0005 percent of all toll trips. But the usual checks on police trucks are like looking for a needle in a haystack, says Schäfer. “So there’s a huge deficit of control.” It cannot have a deterrent effect. “
A common approach is required
It’s fatal: During on-call time or free time at the rest stop, truck drivers can drink as much as they want. By withholding transport documents, the police can prevent the journey from starting until, after a second check, the driver is demonstrably sober again. “If a German truck driver with at least 1.6 per mille was picked up tremendously at a rest stop in Thuringia, he would eventually be obliged to undergo a medical-psychological examination, MPU,” says Schäfer. “It would be possible with an Eastern European driver in principle, but unfortunately it is not practiced.”
It is true that the state is obliged to avert such serious dangers as part of its risk management. However, the police only seize these alcoholics at rest areas on weekends, when they hold drinks with like-minded people. The driving license authorities responsible for the place of inspection are obliged to act. “However, as checkpoints for clients are constantly changing, reports from the police go out because the authorities are not interconnected,” Schäfer said.
Christian Jung, a member of the FDP Federal Assembly, a freight and logistics reporter for the FDP parliamentary group, has long complained over the weekends about the “impoverishment of truck drivers, especially from Eastern Europe.” It was not until December that the BAG criticized the fact that in 2019 a higher body of the Federal Ministry of Transport had punished only 1,053 violations of the ban on rest periods in lorries.
“Transport policy in Germany is currently supporting cornering assistants to prevent accidents,” says Jung. “However, the increasing risk of drunk truck drivers on German motorways has not yet reached political Berlin.” Finally, a joint approach by the federal government, states and institutions and associations working on road safety is needed, says Jung.