Friday, August 5, 2011

Truck Drivers Face Campaign Against Hours of Service Offences

Growing Use of Magnets Targeted by VOSA
Shipping News Feature

UK – In May we pointed out the growing problem of truck drivers, particularly those in charge visiting foreign freight delivery vehicles, cheating hours of service regulations by using magnets to distort the readings from digital tachographs. As we indicated at the time, the penalties for driving in a manner more likely to cause a serious accident are woefully inadequate, often a comparatively small fine for inadequate record keeping.

Now VOSA, the government agency responsible for supervising driving standards, are to join with police in a campaign to advise drivers of the dangers of the practice and to warn them of the potential penalties they are liable to incur in what is now being viewed as an extremely serious breach of regulations. We have asked VOSA for full details of the new campaign and will publish these as and when we receive them.

Last year police in the Republic of Ireland were shown how to search the chassis’ of suspect vehicles after a spate of vehicles were found to be carrying magnets attached to the gearbox sender units. Most of the vehicles were stopped after travelling either too fast or too slow for the conditions and, according to the Garda, the use of the magnets not only negated the trucks’ speedometers but interfered with anti lock brakes and electronic gear change mechanisms making a serious accident a distinct possibility.

The new campaign will see police and VOSA officials working cooperatively from Monday distributing leaflets to truck drivers after prosecutions associated with this offence, difficult for a normal roadside check to detect, reached well over 400 last year. Penalties can now reach a fine of £5,000 and two years imprisonment, and operators as well as drivers can be penalised and lose their licences.

Drivers forums are full of the topic and describe in detail how to affix the magnets in such a way that the pulse signal transmitted from the rotating shaft via the sensor to the trucks electronic control unit can be nullified, ensuring the tachograph reader ‘thinks’ the lorry is stationary.

According to government statistics up to twenty percent of fatal accidents are caused by driver fatigue but despite this many truck drivers consider this potentially lethal offence no more than a nuisance.