Thursday, May 13, 2010

Freight Truck Drivers Accused Of Cheating Tachograph Regulations

Stronger Penalties Required to Prevent Abuse
Shipping News Feature

UK – Two simple facts of life. Firstly most people are resistant to change and secondly, bring in new protection or surveillance technology and someone will find a way to beat it. Both points are relevant to the Road Haulage Association’s (RHA) statement today regarding the abuse of current Hours of Service regulations by commercial vehicle drivers delivering and collecting freight shipments throughout the country.

We have often put the case to our US cousins that, although initially resisted by most freight drivers, the electronic recorders now mandatory in cabs across Europe, were eventually welcomed by many who realised widespread cheating of the old manual systems led to accidents and excessive working hours.

Now it seems that the latest generation of digital tachographs, designed to record irrefutably a driver’s speed and hours of service, are being circumvented by unscrupulous operators jamming the sensitive recording media with magnets making their recent driving history illegible.

The principal culprits are, unsurprisingly to most UK based drivers, foreign vehicles who are well versed in the black arts of illegal running. According to the RHA’s CEO Geoff Dunning the Central Motorway Police Group has revealed that 30% of non-UK registered trucks subjected to targeted checks in the first quarter of this year were found to be using a magnet.

He continues, “It is quite rare for British drivers to use magnets. The consequences are severe for both the driver, who is likely to lose his vocational licence and in all likelihood for the employer, who may lose his licence to operate trucks. In short, they may both be put out of the industry.”

For alien operators the situation however is quite different. “Penalties are nothing like adequate,” said Mr Dunning, “It is common for such foreign drivers to get away with a £200 fixed penalty, imposed at the roadside for the lesser offence of failing to keep a record. This is an inadequate deterrent.

“We understand why fixed penalties are used – it is easier than the alternative, which is to have a police officer arrest the driver and take him to court. That happens in some cases but not nearly enough. Even if the driver is brought to court and found guilty, the penalty from magistrates is often woefully inadequate for such a serious offence. “