Tuesday, May 18, 2010

VOSA To Enforce Regulations For Foreign Freight Drivers

Cabotage To Be Strictly Monitored in Future
Shipping News Feature

UK – It is a widely held belief in the British haulage community that foreign drivers engage in many illegal operations whilst working in the UK. Rightly or wrongly many drivers and fleet owners take the view that safety standards, drivers hours of service and operational restrictions are often flouted or ignored by their continental cousins whilst they themselves are shackled by VOSA inspectors and traffic police officers who find it easier to pursue a native speaker than someone who has limited English and documents which are almost exclusively foreign.

Recently we reported on the allegedly widespread use of magnets to confound digital tachographs, an offence largely unprosecuted until now when an alien driver has been the suspect due to the difficulties of pursuing the offenders. Now, from this week, cabotage regulations, relaxed after Britain’s full EU membership before which the practice was illegal, are to be enforced with the Department of Transport roadside checks to include details of a drivers recent work records. Under the new rules that came into effect on May 14, firms from another country are only allowed to do three domestic haulage operations in a period of seven days. This should effectively prevent the practice of a vehicle and driver remaining in the UK for weeks, sometimes months, and engaging in regular domestic haulage contracts.

The new policy, mooted originally by the outgoing Labour administration, has been widely welcomed by both domestic drivers and their representative bodies. Geoff Dunning, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association (RHA), commented:

“This is a welcome shift in VOSA’s approach to cabotage which will make a contribution towards fair competition. Those drivers who break EU cabotage rules will face a £200 fixed penalty at the roadside, as a result of regulatory changes made by the Department after representations by the RHA. DfT’s new emphasis on cabotage enforcement recognises the need for fair competition within EU law. British hauliers work to high standards within a demanding regulatory framework; they are also disadvantaged by paying by far the highest fuel duty in the EU.”

Meanwhile, the RHA has stressed to the new government the importance of VOSA’s enforcement activities in the current budgetary reviews. The bulk of the enforcement budget comes from the industry but the government’s contribution of £19 million this year is of great importance and should be maintained.

Many in the UK freight and shipping community will however consider that the penalties to be imposed for foreign drivers breaking the regulations should in fact be much harsher in an attempt to eliminate offences such as cabotage completely.