Monday, February 22, 2016

Road Haulage Driver Ban Indicates Seriousness of Flouting the Law

Tachograph Offences Can Strip Offenders of Livelihood
Shipping News Feature
UK – Despite the constant revision of the rules there are still road haulage operators, and their staff, who fail to recognise the seriousness of straying from the path of righteousness as far as the UK’s Traffic Commissioners are concerned. Last month the Senior Traffic Commissioner, Beverley Bell, published a comprehensive set of statutory directions to assist those concerned to stay on the right side of the authorities, details of which we published at the time. These guidelines cover all the responsibilities and obligations that both haulage companies, directors, transport managers and drivers have, to ensure their operations are conducted with nothing more hazardous to others than the everyday risks associated with the provision of HGV services.

A case just published by the Office of Transport Commissioners illustrates perfectly both the lengths which some go to whilst attempting to avoid the law, and the penalties for doing so. A year ago the DVSA commenced an investigation into the goods vehicle operator Connop & Son Ltd. in Leominster, a company which operates a fleet of HGVs in order to pursue its various trades which include commercial floor laying and paving, plus apparently an amount of agricultural work as one might expect from a farm based business.

One of the company drivers, Stephen Duggan, was found by the DVSA to have been using a digital tachograph card in the name of Darren Goodall as well as his own card. Mr Duggan had been working double shifts, using Mr Goodall’s card to try to disguise the fact that he was both driving and working excessive hours. The case was heard in Court in September 2015 resulting in a fine of £500 for making a false record.

Of course the matter did not end there, the DVSA had evidence of a litany of offences including 82 drivers’ hours offences committed by Mr Duggan, these included 28 false records, 28 insufficient daily rests, six of failing to take weekly rest, seven of exceeding 90 hours driving in a fortnight, nine of exceeding 4.5 hours driving, three of exceeding 10 hours driving in a day, and one of failing to produce a driver card, and all this in a 4 month period from 1 September 2014 to 5 January 2015.

At the resultant driver conduct hearing in Birmingham last month Duggan agreed that he had worked between 80 and 90 hours a week for several months over the apple season in autumn 2014. He claimed he had needed the extra money to fund an award against him after a legal dispute with a neighbour. He would not say how he had come by Mr Goodall’s tachograph card but said his vehicle had been equipped with a tracking device, so the company must have known that he was working and driving for excessive hours.

The Traffic Commissioner considered the operators knowledge as irrelevant as far as determining the guilt of Mr Duggan. The Commissioners always take the view that deliberately falsifying timekeeping records is a far more serious offence than actually breaching the rules which the falsification is intended to disguise. In one single week Duggan drove for 94 hours, 4 hours more than is allowed for a fortnight under the Drivers Hours Rules.

The Senior Traffic Commissioner’s statutory guidelines give a starting point of four weeks’ suspension of a driver’s Large Goods Vehicles (LGV) driving entitlement for each offence for up to six offences of deliberate falsification of a tachograph record. For six offences or more, the guidelines suggest revocation of the LGV licence and disqualification of the driver for 12 months. On February 20 the Traffic Commissioner revoked Duggan’s driving entitlement for one year, effectively rendering him unemployable as a Large Goods Vehicle driver.