According to road safety charity Brake, research has indicated that tiredness is a major factor in causing many road traffic accidents. One in every six are in some way tiredness-related, and what’s more, about 40 per cent of tiredness-related accidents involve commercial drivers. This is why there are stringent regulations relating to drivers’ working hours and all those who manage fleets have to take adequate notice.
This FAQ will attempt to answer several commonly-asked questions about managing driver hours, tachograph infringements, what they mean for drivers and fleet operators, and how to deal with them if or when they arise. We hope it helps.
Q: How long do tachograph infringements last?
A: This is a commonly-asked question, but it might not be the right question to ask. There are a range of Tachograph infringements that can result in different punishments, from fines to imprisonment. The different types of punishments are provided below.
- Failing to observe driving time, break or rest period rules: maximum fine £2,500 (Level 4)
- Failing to make or keep records under British domestic rules: maximum fine £2,500 (Level 4);
- Failing to install a tachograph: maximum fine £5,000 (Level 5)
- Failing to use a tachograph: maximum fine £5,000 (Level 5)
- Failing to provide records with relation recording equipment as requested by an enforcement officer: maximum fine £5,000
- False entry or alteration of a record with the intent to deceive: on summary conviction, fine of £5,000; on indictment, two years’ imprisonment
- Altering or forging the seal on a tachograph with the intent to deceive: on summary conviction, fine of £5,000; on indictment, two years’ imprisonment
- Failing to take all reasonable steps to ensure contractually agreed transport time schedules are compliant with EU rules: maximum fine £2,500 (Level 4).
Q: What sort of punishment do most tachograph infringements incur?
A: Most tachograph infringements are dealt with by way of a fixed penalty. Drivers have up to 28 days to consider any fixed penalties issued to them. The severity of the fine will be proportional to the seriousness of the infringement. However, as indicated above, prosecutions can be pursued if the infringement is felt to merit this. Drivers may be issued with a prohibition note, where they are barred from driving until the conditions specified on the note have been met. Where a prohibition note has been issued, the offence will also be considered for prosecution.
Q: How are accidental breaches dealt with?
A: Of course, it is true that many tachograph infringements are accidental, unavoidable or can simply be attributed to the inexperience of the driver. In these cases, a verbal warning should suffice and this is generally how such instances are handled by operators. However, should a pattern of such incidents emerge (thereby indicating a persistent potential safety risk) then the matter will be escalated.
Q: How are companies held liable for tachograph infringements?
A: Both companies and drivers can be prosecuted for tachograph breaches. One of the two parties may be held liable, or both simultaneously. Fleet operators may be issued with offence rectification notices (these are for infringements not related to safety) and given 21 days to address the concerns raised. Failure to do so within that given time frame means that prosecution will be considered. Furthermore, drivers holding a vocational licence and firms holding an operational licence may be referred to the Traffic Commissioner, with the possibility that further action could be taken against them.
Q: In what circumstances could action be taken against a fleet operator?
A: Operators will not be held liable for tachograph infringements if they can prove that they did not incentivise the relevant breaches (e.g. through payments), the work was properly scheduled and organised, the driver was properly instructed, and that a system of regular checks was in place to ensure employees did not exceed driving hours. If operators fail to pass these tests, they may be subject to prosecution. In addition, operators may be prosecuted if they have issued a driver with a job which could only be completed through excessive driving. Likewise, if an operator has failed to address repeated tachograph breaches by a particular driver, prosecution may follow.