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All work and no play could land HGV drivers in trouble

Driving is something that we all take for granted. Without a vehicle, how would we cope? Well, according to RoSPA, driving for work is the most dangerous activity that most employees will undertake at any point in their working day. You are statistically much more likely to be killed behind the wheel than on a building site.

For some time now, operators of HGV vehicles, such as lorries, have been strictly controlled. After all, their vehicles are large, heavy and their impact can be catastrophic. In order to control the risks posed by these larger vehicles, the DVSA have already implemented steps to monitor the competency of drivers by requiring that all HGV drivers hold a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) which requires 35 hours of training over a five year period. 

The next focus for the DVSA is adherence to driver hours, and particularly rest breaks. RoSPA estimate that 40% of sleep related accidents are committed in commercial vehicles. This also equates to 1 in 5 of all accidents and up to a quarter of all serious and fatal crashes. Drivers of HGVs, under domestic rules, are typically permitted to be on the road for no more than 10 hours per day, and they can only do that twice a week. The driver must take regular breaks throughout his working days. All of this is recorded on the vehicle’s tachograph.

Currently, the DVSA can only issue commercial vehicle operators with fines for offences committed on the day and those which are ongoing, such as tachograph manipulation. Under newly announced plans the DVSA will give their traffic examiners new powers to issue on the spot fines for up to five previous offences committed in the last 28 days. It doesn’t matter if these rules took place in GB or elsewhere. These fines are likely to be £300 per offence. This means that those that have consistently broken the rules can expect a fine of up to £1500 per stop.

Whilst the dates for tachograph infringements has not been announced, from 1st November, fines are now being given to deter drivers from not resting properly. Lorry, bus and coach drivers must take a 45 hour rest break at least every fortnight. If, for example, a driver takes their full break in the cab of their lorry in a lay-by, or parks their vehicle in places where it causes a problem, then they can also expect a £300 on the spot fine.

According to the DVSA, spending breaks in the cab can contribute to drivers not properly resting, expose drivers to poor living conditions and cause problems for local residents where lorries have been parked illegally or inappropriately. DVSA traffic examiners have been instructed to target lay-bys and residential areas particularly.

Clearly the DVSA are wanting to take more effective action. You should be taking appropriate steps now to ensure that your drivers are adhering to the rules and do not expose themselves, or you, to any enforcement action. Educating drivers is the key. They work for you and so they must work how you want them to. The repetition of having drivers sign non-conformances is not going to be enough to instigate change. You need to communicate the rules, monitor adherence and take disciplinary action as appropriate.

If you need any further advice, or if you’re considering verifying your safety performance by obtaining an accreditation, please give our health and safety consultants a call on 01302 341 344.

By Ian Clayton CMIOSH DGSA – Health and Safety Manager & Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner

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