DVSA prosecutions fall sharply

Prosecutions for drivers’ hours and tachograph offences fell by almost a third last year as the DVSA attempted to deal with all but the most serious offences with fixed penalties.

Figures disclosed in two recent parliamentary question and answer sessions reveal that there were just 2,861 prosecutions brought during 2014/15, down from 4,050 in 2013/14.

Over the same period, the total number of drivers’ hours and tachograph offences detected by the enforcement agency soared by 48% to 15,183.

Transport minister Andrew Jones said: “The main reason for the decrease in figures was a drive to deal with all but the most serious offences by way of fixed penalty, freeing up court time and making more efficient use of enforcement resources in line with government policy.”

But the figures have concerned the RHA, which said questions remain over the DVSA’s strategy. “The question and answer sessions beg more questions than they answer,” said RHA policy director Jack Semple.

“It is right to focus on serious offending, in terms of road safety risk and fair competition. The extent to which the DVSA is effective in tackling serious drivers’ hours offending is of continuing interest, especially as the DVSA faces budget challenges.”

Semple added: “We are conscious that police forces play an active role in enforcement and appear to put more emphasis on prosecuting through the courts. We remain concerned that there is  little in terms of practical sanction against those who are involved in falsifying drivers’ hours records, especially where visiting drivers are concerned.”

FTA head of licensing policy and compliance information James Firth said: “I understand why this has happened. Part of it was to provide a mechanism where sanctions are issued more effectively and more efficiently because, if a case has to go to court for prosecution, then often the DVSA officer has to attend and provide evidence, which takes them off the roadside.”

He added: “I have no evidence, [but] it has been suggested in the past that because prosecution was the only avenue available to an officer at the roadside, that perhaps, on certain occasions, they have used their discretion more widely and not taken any action at all. Members do support the established idea of using fixed penalties.”