OK pay attention at the back... This is today's 'serious' blog for the day. This morning Biglorryblog joined a media scrum down at Maidstone Services just off J8 on the M20 where Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick (that's him below surrounded by the law) kicked off the long-awaited Graduated Fixed Penalty Scheme for truck drivers with a major VOSA/Traffic Police blitz... And if you haven't heard of graduated fixed penalties for truck drivers where the hell have you been... On Mars? Anyway I'd make sure you click through to the next page where it's explained in detail.
Arriving at 8:00am I have to say I've also never seen so many senior Police officers in one place - the light reflecting off the silver braid on their peaked caps was was blinding! Likewise Fitzptarick's VOSA and DfT press minders also out in force as are the regular men from the ministry. Much to my surprise I find myself chatting with Kent's Chief Constable Mike Fuller - who's a charming bloke (I know which side MY bread is buttered on).
However, I couldn't help feeling a bit sorry for the half dozen or so foreign drivers who had already been pulled into the bunfight and looked accordingly shell-shocked to see so many men and women in flourescent jackets wielding hammers and various other bits of enforcement kit.
By 8:30am three drivers had already been given a fixed penalty and asked for some dosh - or as the PR people call it 'a deposit'.
Fitzpatrick tells me: "The word will go out. There's no hiding place in the UK for foreign drivers who break the law. It reinforces the powers that the Police and VOSA have to make sure they are abiding by the same rules as the British industry." Maidstone services is clearly the perfect location to intercept drivers on Dover run. Superintendent Peter Wedlake, Kent Police's head of tactical operations, which includes roads policing tells me: "We've between 40-50,000 foreign trucks travelling on Kent's roads every week." And a few British trucks too...
I ask one of the Policeman present how he feels about collecting spot-fines - this is the first time Police officers will be handling money 'at the roadside' and he's quite sanguine: "We'll be going straight to a pay-in point as soon as practicable," he tells me. Any driver (UK or foreign) whose vehicle is immobilised, whether for non-payment of the deposit/penalty fine or for a serious mechanical defect or major offence will also find a particularly sticky 'Stop Notice' applied to the windscreen in their line of sight too.
And just for me a nice Policeman slaps a 'you're nicked' sticker on an immobilised truck. Rather than use a cumbersome wheelclamp a study steel cable is passed through a wheel and attached to the chassis. Works well enough--indeed the method actually comes from the Dutch enforcement authorities. Try driving off with this around your steer axle... I don't think so.
Meanwhile, VOSA's multi-language leaflet, which its enforcement officers will be giving out to drivers, explains everything... In German, Polish, French, Spanish and French as well as English. However, you can also click through here and read the nub of it all.
Biglorryblog's 'How it works No 5,781:' The Graduated Fixed Penalty Scheme
From April 1 Police and Vosa enforcement officers have been able to issue graduated fixed penalties to both foreign and domestic drivers for a variety of offences including the obvious drivers' hours, overloading or roadworthiness. However, it seems that VOSA officers won't really get stuck into the swing of handing them out until some time next month.
Either way the penalties will range from £30-£200 dependant on the severity of the offence. In those cases where an offence requires court action and the driver cannot furnish a satisfactory UK address - typically a foreign driver - each offence will carry a £300 financial deposit requirement up to a maximum of £900. UK drivers who can show a satisfactory address have up to 28 days to either pay the penalty or choose to have the 'alleged offence' heard in court. On the spot payments will be in sterling or via credit card. Non-payment will be result in a prohibition being issued and the vehicle may be immobilised. Those drivers with serious offences or with major vehicle mechanical faults are likely to be immobilised as a matter of course. Any offences relating to the condition of tyres, brakes and steering will continue to carry a points endorsement on a HGV driver's licence. If a UK driver gets a Graduated Fixed Penalty then a letter will be sent to his employer confirming the fact while information on GFPs will also be entered against a company's OCRS score.
And that's GFPs explained...