Truck drivers in the UK face tough new penalties if they are caught exceeding time limits on the road.
New rules mean the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency will be able to issue on-the-spot fines for any drivers’ hours offences committed in the previous 28 days. This relates to drivers who breach their tachograph restrictions – devices that dictate the number of hours they’re allowed to be at the wheel over a 24-hour period.
Currently, DVSA can only fine drivers for offences committed that day or for ongoing offences such as manipulating tachograph records that record drivers’ hours.
The Government has not confirmed when the new rules will take effect but when they are introduced DVSA traffic examiners will be able to issue fines for up to five drivers’ hours offences in a single roadside check. It means a driver can fined up to £1,500 from that check.
It won’t matter whether the offences take place in Great Britain or elsewhere.
The rules will also apply to drivers who don’t live in Great Britain. If the roadside check reveals they have breached the rules, they will have to pay any fines immediately before being allowed to continue their journey. If they don’t, DVSA will immobilise their vehicle until they pay.
According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), driving while tired may be responsible for one in five of all accidents and up to a quarter of serious and fatal crashes.
About 40% of sleep-related accidents involve drivers of commercial vehicles and, in a bid to tackle the issue, 6,300 drivers’ hours fines were issued to lorry drivers by the DVSA between April 2015 and March 2016.
As well as giving fines to drivers for recent offences, DVSA traffic examiners will start issuing fines to deal with drivers who don’t get proper rest.
Rules state that lorry, bus and coach drivers must take a 45-hour rest break at least every fortnight.
From 1 November 2017, the DVSA will start to fine drivers up to £300 if they spend their full weekly rest break in their vehicle in places where it causes a problem, for example, if a lorry driver spends their full break in the cab of their lorry in a layby.
In some areas, lorry drivers have parked illegally or inappropriately while taking the 45-hour break and have caused residents to complain about noise, litter and anti-social behaviour.
During 2016, authorities in Kent took action against 3,700 lorry drivers for parking illegally or inappropriately.
DVSA Chief Executive Gareth Llewellyn said, “These tougher fines will help us to take stronger action against any drivers or operators who break drivers’ hours rules and will help make our roads safer.
“There’s no excuse for driving while tired. The results of falling asleep at the wheel of a 40-tonne lorry can be devastating to families and communities. Any drivers breaking these rules are putting other road users at risk and could face losing their licence and livelihood.”
James Firth, the Freight Transport Association’s Head of Licensing Policy and Compliance Information, said, “For some years, DVSA officers have been virtually powerless to take effective action against non-UK HGV drivers who may have committed a string of offences in the days and weeks before the vehicle is stopped.
“These new powers mean the enforcement authorities will be more able – and more likely – to take action against all drivers who are found to have repeatedly flouted these critical road safety laws.”