Tuesday, February 20, 2018

New European Safety Report Insists Alcohol Locks Must be Fitted to All Road Haulage Freight Trucks

How Long Will Brussels Wait to Ensure HGV Drivers Comply?
Shipping News Feature
EUROPE – For almost a decade we have been writing about the possibility of ensuring road haulage operators prevent their truck drivers from taking to the road whilst under the influence of alcohol. Despite a plethora of devices available to prevent a vehicle from starting the engine until the person in charge has performed a breath test enabling the ignition system to operate, very few freight companies have taken up the option without mandatory enforcement.

Moves were made in France ten years ago, a country with a culture which includes the enjoyment of alcohol in some measure, to encourage haulage companies to fit the technology in HGVs, with grants available for the purpose. The devices are already fitted in all coaches and now the government has decreed every repeat drink-driving offender will be required to install an alcohol interlock in their vehicles.

Parts of Scandinavia have mandatory regulations to ensure the devices are fitted to all new vehicles and last September Austria launched a national rehabilitation programme for drink-drivers that offers the option for them to install an interlock in order to get back behind the wheel before the full term of a driving ban has expired. Belgium, Denmark, Finland, The Netherlands, Poland and Sweden have introduced similar programmes, as have the majority of US states. Calls to adopt the technology in the UK have seemingly fallen on deaf ears, despite campaining by safety organisations.

Now the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) has issued a new report looking at how to reduce the 5,000+ deaths still caused by drink-driving in the European Union each year. In view of the success of the various individual schemes, and the progress made by EU countries including Latvia and Denmark where deaths attributed to drink-driving have been dropping faster than other road deaths, whilst in Estonia the introduction of a near zero tolerance, (0.2 g/l) Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit for all drivers, and thanks in part also to the highest level of alcohol roadside breath tests in the EU, the country has witnessed drink-driving deaths drop by 90% over the last decade,.

With a review of vehicle safety regulations by the European Commission expected in May 2018, the ETSC is calling for a standard electronic interface to be fitted to all new cars to make installation of an interlock easier when required by law. ETSC also says the devices should be fitted as standard on professional vehicles. Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of ETSC said:

“High levels of enforcement are critical to solving Europe’s drink-driving problem. And for those drivers who carry on getting behind the wheel after drinking, despite checks and sanctions, alcohol interlocks are an important and effective way of getting people rehabilitated.

“It’s also crucial that drivers entrusted with professional vehicles carrying goods or passengers must never be allowed to get behind the wheel when they are over the limit. Many fleets across Europe are already using interlock devices, it’s time they were made a standard feature.”