Commercial drivers and operators are being warned that the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) can now issue on-the-spot fines for drivers’ hours offences.
Applicable to any vehicles using tachos, the rules cover any drivers’ hours offences that have been committed in the 28 days preceding the stop.
DVSA traffic examiners are able to issue fixed penalty notices for up to five drivers’ hours offences in a single roadside check, according to legal firm Shulmans LLP. As each fine is for a fixed sum of between £50 and £300, a single stop could result in a driver being fined £1,500.
Drivers have 28 days to decide whether to accept the fixed penalty or not. If they do not agree with the assessment that an offence has been committed, or they are unsure and want to consider the issues further, they should decline the offer of a fixed penalty, which may result in a court summons. If the driver is found guilty or pleads guilty in court, the fine and the costs are likely to be greater than the initial fixed penalty.
If a driver is convicted of drivers’ hours offences, they could be called before the Traffic Commissioner for a hearing to consider whether any action should be taken against the driver’s vocational driving licence. This could clearly have significant financial implications on a working driver who is prevented from driving during a period of suspension.
The guidance provided by the Senior Traffic Commissioner indicates that a driver convicted of drivers’ hours offences might expect to receive a suspension of their licence, ranging from a few days to a few weeks depending on the Traffic Commissioner’s view of the significance or severity of the offences.
With both the operator and transport manager obliged to notify the Traffic Commissioner of any offences committed by drivers, including any fixed penalties, Shulmans LLP said operators, drivers and transport managers need to be aware of these new rules and ensure that if a roadside check involves a driver being offered a fixed penalty, then this should not be accepted lightly or as just an easy way out.
Richard Wadkin, partner at Shulmans LLP, and Clare Benger, solicitor at Shulmans LLP, added: “At the very least operators and transport managers should require their drivers to make them immediately aware if a fixed penalty notice has been issued, and stress that they need to be notified by drivers BEFORE it is accepted. The driver’s own licence, the transport manager’s repute and the operator’s licence may be affected by any fixed penalty. As a result, there can be serious implications for an operator’s business and further cost in dealing with any fall out.”