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30 of truck drivers in the UK are found beyond their hours limit

26 November 2008

The results of Operation Truck are now public. The operation last month, carried out to investigate offending by truck drivers, was a repeat of a similar operation which took place in March 2008. The Europe-wide crackdown was coordinated by the European Traffic Police Network (TISPOL).

157,988 vehicles were stopped across 22 countries as part of the operation. It is interesting to note that nearly one in five vehicles were travelling outside their own country. Over 49,000 offences were reported in total as a result of the crackdown.

1,079 trucks were stopped in the UK; 326 of these were found to have drivers hours violations - over 30. There were also 175 instances found of vehicle technical offences.

390 offences in total were found on the 934 British registered trucks stopped in the UK - a 41 rate of offending.

Across the whole operation, 13,744 drivers were found to have driven beyond their legal hours limit. This made breaches of drivers hours regulations the most frequently found offence.

Not being up to scratch with your drivers hours compliance can have serious consequences. Firstly, you are more likely to be caught than ever before, with VOSAs enforcement operations increasing due to increased funding, use of new technology and new enforcement options (such as the forthcoming introduction of graduated fixed penalties).

Enforcement action is reportable against an operators licence, and if a history of non-compliance develops then an operator may be called in to have their licence reviewed at a public inquiry. This could result in the licence being curtailed or even revoked, which could have catastrophic economic consequences for the business.

In addition, there is a well established link between driver fatigue and road accidents. Where such an accident proves to be fatal, it is almost inevitable that a serious prosecution will follow.

In respect of fatal accidents, prosecutors are now able to charge offenders with two relatively new offences.

The first is the offence of causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving, which came into force on 18 August 2008. This offence carries more serious penalties than the offence of careless driving, including a penalty of up to five years imprisonment.

The second is the offence of corporate manslaughter. The company responsible for putting the driver on the road could be charged with this offence, which came into force on 6 April 2008. A company will be guilty of this offence if it can be shown that the way in which the company (and in particular, its senior management) organised its activities amounted to a gross breach of a duty of care to the deceased. If a company or management team has tolerated a systematic breach of drivers hours regulations by their staff, then a corporate manslaughter charge could follow. Responsible companies will want to avoid this primarily to protect their drivers and staff, but also to avoid financial penalties which are expected to range between 5 and 10 of a companys annual turnover.

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