FIRST PUBLISHED IN FLEET MANAGER MAGAZINE FEB/MARCH 2018 ISSUE
So what has 2018 in store so far as new or amended regulations are concerned? As in recent years don’t expect any ‘blockbuster’ new legislation to wrestle with, that will dramatically change the way a business has to operate.
However, there are quite a few areas of planned changes that businesses need to be aware of to keep up-to-date.
Hovering in the background above all businesses is a continuing enforcement landscape where, whilst there is now a heavy emphasis on fixed penalties and alternative disposals to criminal court sanctions, the penalties for what might be termed ‘duty of care’ offences (health & safety offences, gross negligence manslaughter etc) are now very significant.
As highlighted at our recent Utility Fleet Forum conference, whereas a total only two fines of more than £1M had been imposed in the whole two-year period prior to 2016 no less than 18 were imposed in that year and this has already been exceeded in 2017. This follows a change in sentencing guidelines introduced in February 2016. Expect this significant trend to continue.
In this area we can expect to see likely implementation of harsher sentencing guidelines for gross negligence manslaughter and the Government has indicated it will press ahead with increased sentences for death by dangerous driving and death by careless driving whilst unfit through drink/drugs. A new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving it also to be brought in.
The onward march of the fixed penalty will continue in 2018 with (finally!) the introduction of drivers’ hours fixed penalties for historical offences i.e. those committed in the 28 days preceding the occasion of the DVSA /police roadside stop. Currently this is planned to be in force from February 2018 through the Community Drivers’ Hours Offences (Enforcement) Regulations 2017. Expect more penalties issued to drivers, therefore.
Operator licencing etc
The Department of Transport has confirmed various changes relating to operator licensing, electric goods vans and mobile batching plant (December 2017). The headline developments are:-
• Only mobile plant vehicles that do not carry goods (including materials) will remain exempt from operator licensing. Otherwise they will lose their exemption. The Department of Transport has concluded that having regard to fair competition and other factors there is no proper justification for excluding from licencing such goods vehicles. So, mobile plant that take ingredients to site to mix (e.g. to make concrete) will lose the exemption whilst others will not, e.g. those relating to the treatment of grain, production of animal fodder and road cleaning. Mobile concrete batching plant and volumetric concrete mixers have been the subject of controversy for some time because of the way they have been treated for the purposes of Construction & Use Regulations, testing / plating and for operator licensing. One issue has related to weights and running vehicles of up to 42 tonnes design weight when otherwise this limit would not be permitted if treated as ‘normal’ goods vehicles. The Government has decided to set in motion steps to address this the first of which is a temporary arrangement using Vehicle Special Orders (“VSOs”). This will be for a period of 7 – 10 years and involve the axle weights of these vehicles being limited to no more than 20% greater than standard limits for like goods vehicles. This is quite a complicated and technical area but in essence it is part of the approach to treat these vehicles as essentially goods vehicles and make them subject to the same legislation.
• Recovery/breakdown vehicles will not lose their operator licensing exemption, it has been decided. However, such vehicles will have their annual test exemption removed, as planned. (See below.) In addition, mobile cranes will continue to be operator licensing-exempt.
• Electrically-propelled vehicles: the Government has decided to remove the current exemption from operator licencing for electrically-propelled vehicles, but to introduce a new exemption for alternatively-fuelled vehicles up to 4.25 tonnes not used internationally. This latter exemption will apply whether or not own goods or third party goods are carried by the vehicle. In addition, the exemption from MOT testing of electric goods vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes will be removed, save for vehicles first registered before 1 March 2015. (See earlier article in Fleet Manager magazine.)
Changes to testing / plating from 20 May 2018
The implementation of EU Directives including those relating to roadworthiness and roadside inspections will see changes to DVSA inspection manual criteria and roadside / workshop inspection criteria. There will be a consultation with regard to a revised Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness last published in 2014 to take account of this and other developments. Expect to see some changes with regard to roadside prohibitions and fixed penalties e.g. fixed penalties may start to be issued for any defective tyre, not just those on steer axles.
Vehicles currently exempt from testing but which are losing their exemption must be tested in advance of the vehicle’s excise duty renewal date after 19 May 2018. In essence the government has removed testing / plating exemptions for vehicles where those types of vehicles are based on an HGV chassis. The main ones are: mobile cranes; breakdown vehicles: engineering plant; tarmac trailers; tower wagons; road construction vehicles; electrically propelled vehicles; tractor units pulling exempt trailers; motor tractors and heavy / light locomotives; health / education vehicles; volumetric concrete mixers; special types vehicles (possible future testing requirement in some cases).