Driver recruitment & drivers' hours knowledge: testing, testing by Tim Ridyard, Solicitor, Woodfines LLP

Driver Testing on Recruitment

Over the last few months we have encountered a number of cases leading to Police and VOSA prosecutions involving shortcomings in drivers' knowledge of the tachograph rules. In these cases drivers did not appear to have sufficient knowledge of the drivers' hours rules; they may have had some understanding but it was simply not up-to-date or complete (by way of example it is still relatively common place for drivers not to have realised that since April 2007 the only split break permissible is one of 15 minutes followed by one of 30 minutes - in that order and not vice versa!).

Regulation 561/2006 in conjunction with the Transport Act 1968 requires every operator to have a system in place that complies with the regulatory requirements and operators are automatically guilty of offences committed by their drivers unless they can show robust systems are in place and they took all reasonable steps to prevent any contravention. The difficulty here is that any single gaps in the system will probably mean there is no defence and the operator is guilty.

One particular weakness in systems occurs on initial recruitment of drivers. Often drivers come on recommendation (i.e. "He has driven for X up the road for the last ten years and that operator would only employ good drivers - so he must be alright!"). It may sometimes be assumed that a driver has good knowledge of the drivers' hours rules when in fact this is not the case - many drivers have still not understood the changes introduced in April 2007 in relation to breaks, daily rests and weekly rests, for example. If an operator is prosecuted it is very easy for the prosecutor to ask the operator what checks were carried out to ensure proper knowledge of the drivers hours rules - invariably, no detailed check of actual rules knowledge takes place at all on initial recruitment or indeed thereafter.

It is highly advisable that any driver recruited by an operator undergoes some kind of diagnostic test (multiple choice or otherwise) to establish the true knowledge level. If there is a gap then this can be plugged immediately. Not only is it important to tackle this with regard to the drivers' hours themselves but also other tachograph compliance issues - the introduction and ever increasing proportion of digital tachographs in use has not been matched by driver knowledge and training; drivers need to be tested about use of their driver digital card, what to do if one is lost or stolen or it malfunctions, downloading procedures, how button selection takes place on the vehicle unit and so forth. In our experience drivers easily 'drift' into tachograph use without any proper training and any knowledge may simply have been acquired from other drivers in a somewhat haphazard fashion.

Our advice is that on recruitment all new driver employees should undergo some kind of detailed checking procedure before they carry out journeys for the operator - during their initial weeks and months particular regard must be had to analysing their charts and digital data to identify any problems which will in all likelihood be capable of being addressed through simple training.

If you require any further advice or assistance in this matter, please contact Tim Ridyard at Woodfines Solicitors on 01223 411 421 or email at tridyard@woodfines.co.uk

Continuous Insurance Enforcement in Force from Today

New laws have today been introduced that are designed to crack down on uninsured driving.

Continuous Insurance Enforcement affects all motorists, not just car drivers, meaning that haulage operators must also ensure they have not got any fleet vehicles uninsured. From 20 June the DVLA will have the power to clamp, seize and destroy a vehicle if it does not have valid insurance. Court action and fines of up to £1,000 will also be possible.

The regulations apply to any vehicle, even if they are not being used on the road, unless you possess a Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN).

In comparison to cars the numbers of trucks running around or parked up without any insurance will be small. However the Motor Insurers' Bureau says HGV drivers are included in the 1.4 million (4%) estimated to have no insurance.

 

Announcing the new law transport minister Mike Penning placed emphasis on the danger uninsured drivers cause, stating that they kill 160 and injure 23,000 people each year and cost everyone else £500m in extra premiums. However, it is already an offence to use a vehicle without insurance and so this law will simply run alongside existing ones enforced by the police. It is also questionable whether or not this move will have the desired effect of reducing premiums.

The Motor Accident Solicitors Society has previously told the Transport Select Committee that it was surprised that a reduction in the numbers of non-insurers over the last five years has not translated into a corresponding fall in premiums.

One reason might be the much bigger problems of fraud and personal injury claims, both of which have risen steeply recently, particulary 'crash for cash' scams, and are making insurance expensive for all of us.

For more information please contact Anton Balkitis or Lucy Wood on 0115 9100600 or visit them at http://www.keepmeontheroad.co.uk/