Operator licensing - new forms for application/ variations, by Tim Ridyard, Woodfines Solicitors LLP

Further to the blog with regard to the letter being sent to all operators it should be noted that all application forms for grants or variations of any kind have now been very substantially re-drafted in layout, content and the information requested from applicants. Whilst ironing out some gremlins in previous versions they will need to be drafted with great care and attention to detail - information required about nominated transport managers is detailed. Comprehensive declarations need to be signed by both operators and transport managers.

For further queries or assistance with application: Tim Ridyard, Partner, Woodfines Solicitors LLP, Cambridge tridyard@woodfines.co.uk and 01223 411421

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