WORLDWIDE NEWS – Currently, in the UK at least, there is no compulsion for anyone to fit a device into an HGV or any other truck to prevent the driver moving away whilst over the alcohol limit – yet. However in this age of digital tachographs, speed cameras et al. perhaps this is one imposition that should be made on the freedom of, at the very least, commercial vehicle drivers. From next year Sweden will require Alcohol Ignition Locks or Alcolocks, as they are known, to be fitted to all lorries and buses and from 2012 to all new vehicles. Already 50,000 vehicles in the country are so equipped.
The figures speak for themselves. In the US alone over 15,000 people a year die directly as a result of drunk driving. Yes, the figures are down year on year due to campaigns nationwide, in the UK the numbers are down to just over 400. One must remember though that those 400 people leave many more bereaved behind. When seat belts and crash helmets were made compulsory a cry went up for freedom of choice, an argument which now seems slightly ridiculous. When one calculates the cost of putting peoples’ lives and bodies back together after a serious accident it may well prove more economical for a Government to subsidise the cost of alcohol locks on trucks.
Such devices can have a positive effect, not only on professional drivers, but help to prevent vehicle crime. With the economy of scale which legislation to fit such devices would bring they might soon spread to the new car sector. Many European countries are moving toward compulsory legislation but it appears ludicrous to observers that this type of legislation is not a European Union requirement. What happens to a German driver in Sweden when he has a truck without the device, or do all Swedish owner drivers rush out and buy foreign registered vehicles? The rest of Scandinavia is taking much the same line.
France, amongst others, are slowly taking the hint. In a country where drinking wine with lunch is a way of life, Brittany-based transport company Transport Express Conseil Logistique (TECL) became the first in France to equip its entire fleet with alcolocks. After an incident in 2005 which saw three company drivers in convoy all found to be over the limit and a follow up spot check on a Monday morning at the driver training school used by the company, when a staggering three quarters of students proved to be legally drunk, company founder Réné Le Grand swore he would take steps to ensure nobody ever suffered at the hands of one of his staff because of the problem. .
“There were no victims, nobody was hurt, nor was there any negative publicity from the event. But I felt absolutely dreadful and promised I’d never find myself in the same situation again,” comments Msieu Le Grand.
The Caisse Régionale d’Assurance Maladie (CRAM) social security authority in Northern France has now signed an agreement with Volvo Trucks and is paying a grant of 700 euros per unit installed, and there are potential grants available from other bodies both on a national and European level. Msieu Le Grand did not wait for assistance, by 2008 he had spent €35,000 equipping his 35 trucks with alcolocks.
In the UK facts on the locking devices can be obtained from the website of Alcolock UK who have sites near Cambridge and Bath. Joint Managing Director David Whittock told us in an interview,
“We currently produce two types of unit, wire free and semi tethered. The tethered units are most suitable for commercial vehicle use as the drivers frequently change and one cannot walk off with the locking unit. Next year we shall fit units which are hardwired into the cabs."