Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Foreign Road Haulage Drivers May be Subject to Historic Prosecution for Hours Offences

Proposal for On the Spot Fines Sought to Level the Playing Field with UK Hauliers Welcomed by Freight Representatives
Shipping News Feature

UK – The Department for Transport has released plans for foreign hauliers, who put other drivers’ lives at risk, to be given an on-the-spot fine. The proposal, which has been welcomed by the Freight Transport Association (FTA), aims to ensure that foreign HGV drivers are held to account for any infringements incurred whilst undertaking road haulage operations and would bring the UK in line with some other Member States, which already issue on-the-spot penalties for historical EU drivers' working hours offences.

All hauliers who drive for longer than the law allows risk a fine, but penalising truckers without a valid UK home address is harder because they cannot be issued with a court summons. A consultation launched earlier this week, will look at proposals to change legislation to allow roadside enforcement officers the option of giving truck drivers an on-the-spot fine instead of taking them to court. Effective enforcement of a driver’s hours is important, as the majority of road accidents are due to driver error (about 65%) and tired drivers are more prone to making mistakes than alert drivers. In addition the larger the vehicle the more likely any accident would result in drivers/passengers being killed or seriously injured.

Currently enforcement staff can only issue fines if they detect the offence that day, but the consultation seeks to allow them to issue a penalty up to 28 days after an offence was committed, and would allow enforcement of the new HGV Road User Levy for similar periods. Welcoming the consultation, Karen Dee, FTA’s Director of Policy, said:

“Rules and regulations are only effective if they can be enforced properly and we are pleased that the Government is consulting on some new ways of achieving this. At the moment, any drivers’ hours’ offences that become apparent through scrutiny of the records, but that are not actually being committed at the time of the stop, cannot be dealt with by way of a fixed penalty. As a result it is difficult to enforce for those drivers and operators that are not resident in the UK.

“On-the spot fines are a well-established and effective way of ensuring that visiting operators and their drivers are held to account for any infringements, so it makes sense that the Government is looking to use this mechanism. FTA will now look closely at the detail of the proposals with members.”

Drivers’ hour’s rules and the HGV Road User Levy are important features of the road freight industry, with drivers’ hours rules playing a key role in maintaining the safety of road freight operations, and the Road User Levy ensuring that foreign vehicles make a financial contribution towards the wear and tear they help create while operating in the UK. Roads Minister Stephen Hammond said:

“Tired drivers are more prone to accidents which is why there are limits on the number of hours hauliers can drive. Sadly a selfish minority ignore this, putting others’ road safety at risk. The option to issue a fine for this offence would provide an effective weapon in the fight against irresponsible driving by both foreign and UK drivers. This and the fact we introduced the new HGV levy earlier this year shows we are determined to ensure UK drivers and their foreign competitors are on a level playing field.”

The consultation – open to all and which runs until Monday 11 August 2014 – will seek views on enabling enforcement officers to issue fines for driving extra hours or not paying the HGV levy 28 days prior to being pulled over.