Drivers’ hours penalties increase 465%
The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has confirmed a massive increase in the number of drivers’ hours fixed penalties issued from March 2018 - the first twelve months since changes were introduced – from 4,236 to 19,723 penalties. The number of roadside drivers’ hours checks fell from 80,418 to 73,147 but there was a significant increase in the income and value of the number of penalties issued since 1 March 2018 - from £478,400 to just over £3.6M.
Whilst previously a driver’s digital data and tachograph charts could be analysed at the roadside any fixed penalties were confined only to offences ‘committed on that occasion’ e.g. break offences, exceeding daily or rest breaches relating to the ability to work that day. All other offences relating to the preceding 28 days had to be addressed through a Court Summons or potentially only through a DVSA follow-up visit and referral to the Office of the Traffic Commissioner.
The ability to “catch” all offences has clearly seen a massive surge in penalties imposed - but the maximum number of fixed penalties that can be issued remains limited to a maximum of five offences with a maximum of £300 per offence. As these are penalties payable by drivers they represent a very significant amount of net disposable weekly income, possibly several weeks pay.
As it is now easier for the DVSA to impose more fixed penalties prior to the stop, then, in turn, the greater number there are reportable to the Office of the Traffic Commissioner, given that is mandatory under the Operator’s Licence. That raises the risk of DVSA compliance visits and explanations sought from the Office of the Traffic Commissioner. The more fixed penalties the greater the risk. Whether or not there is sufficient enforcement action against operators whose drivers repeatedly offend under this policy approach remains open to question. The introduction of widespread use of road transport fixed penalties imposed on drivers alone, when both drivers and operators might previously have been prosecuted in Court, is still a debatable point.
Truck Cartel developments
It will be recalled that ‘Truck Cartel’ claims relating to compensation for overpricing of trucks from 6 tonnes have been triggered after the European Commission imposed fines on the major truck manufacturers in excess of 2 billion Euros in July and September 2016 .This relates to vehicles manufactured in the period 1997 to 2011. Potential claims to vehicles relate to bought, leased or used vehicles.
In June the Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT) will hear applications brought against truck manufacturers for collective proceedings orders (CPOs) by two parties: UK Trucks Claim Limited and a Road Haulage Association scheme.
Whilst it is impossible to predict the outcome of the case a successful result might allow claims for compensation for all those affected to proceed – in one possible outcome every party of the ‘class’ that acquired a relevant vehicle may be a potential claimant. The financial loss to be recouped would be the value of the amount of excess payment incurred over and above the true market value had there not been anti-competitive conduct. At this stage no one can quantify what this sum might be but could amount to several thousand pounds per vehicle. The total aggregate sums potentially payable by truck manufacturers would be colossal.
Street works: revised code of practice
6th May 2019 is the deadline set by the Department for Transport to respond to proposals on a new edition of the ‘Specification for the reinstatement of openings in highways’ (SROH), not revised since 2010. This is a statutory code of practice that sets out the standards that utility companies have to adhere to when reinstating roads on completion of street works.
The document addresses interpretation and new innovations in reinstatement techniques and materials and to bring the document up to date. It permits new materials to be deployed to make it easier to comply with the code’s requirements and ensure reinstatements are correct from the outset.
The issue of the parking of commercial vehicles and the perceived unfair conduct of parking companies is a constant gripe. The Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019 has just become law and requires the creation of a Government code of practice containing guidance about the operation and management of private parking facilities. This is to promote good practice in the operation and management of such facilities and the appeals procedures. The Code must be published. A failure to comply with it may lead to the removal of accredited parking associations status and access to information from DVLA. This may assist commercial operators and drivers who have become frustrated with regard to site parking issues and enforcement.
Following the 2018 DVSA Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness (2nd edition) stating that tyres more than 10 tyres old should not be used on commercial vehicle front axles the government has announced a consultation on banning older tyres from use on buses, coaches, heavy goods vehicles and mini-buses to help keep road users safe. The DfT has announced that it intends to consult on legislation making it illegal to deploy vehicles with a tyre aged 10 years or over.
Annual test reminder
It will be recalled that some heavy goods vehicles lost their test exemption in May 2018 and so will need to have had a test by 20 May 2019 and annually thereafter. This has to take place before the next tax renewal. The list of vehicles DVSA now need testing include: