Fatigue among drivers is a serious issue that poses significant risks on the road. The potential consequences of a tired driver behind the wheel are severe, which is why there are both European Community (EC) and domestic regulations in place to govern driver’s hours. These regulations not only aim to promote road safety but also ensure fair competition among transport operators. We are going to look at the key aspects of HGV tachograph offences, the rules governing driver’s hours, methods of falsifying records, responsibilities of drivers and operators, and the potential consequences of non-compliance.

Driver’s Hours Rules: To maintain safety and prevent exhaustion, driver’s hours regulations impose limits on driving time, rest periods, and weekly work hours. Here is a closer look at the key rules:

1. European: EC Regulations 561/2006

  • Daily driving time: Should not exceed 9 hours, with exceptions twice a week allowing for up to 10 hours of driving.
  • Weekly driving time: Must not exceed 56 hours.
  • Fortnightly driving time: Must not exceed 90 hours.
  • Daily rest: Should be a minimum of 11 hours, which can be reduced to 9 hours up to three times per week. The daily rest can be split into two periods of at least three hours and nine hours.
  • Breaks: After driving for 4 hours and 30 minutes, a daily rest break of at least 45 minutes is required. This break can be divided into two breaks of at least 15 minutes followed by a break of at least 30 minutes.

2. Domestic Law: Transport Act 1968 – section 96

  • Driving time per day: Should not exceed ten hours.
  • Daily duty limit: No more than 11 hours per working day.
  • Daily work documentation: Must be recorded on a weekly record sheet or a tachograph.

Methods of Falsifying Records: Unfortunately, some individuals attempt to deceive or manipulate tachograph records. Here are a few common methods of falsification:

  1. Casual deception: Involves manipulating hardware or documents.
  2. Removal: Removing the tachograph card or entering a manual entry indicating a “break.”
  3. Second Card: Using another driver’s digi card to record some of the work done.
  4. Supply tampering: Utilising interference devices to tamper with the tachograph.

Responsibilities of Drivers and Operators: To ensure compliance with driver’s hours regulations, both drivers and operators have specific responsibilities:

Driver’s Responsibilities:
– Operating the tachograph correctly to accurately record activities.
– Carrying a digital tachograph card (in the case of digital tachographs) and any required manual records or printouts.
– Possessing analogue charts for the current week and the previous 28 calendar days (if using an analogue tachograph machine).

Operator’s Responsibilities:
– Maintaining tachograph equipment and ensuring its proper functioning.
– Monitoring drivers’ hours, working time records, and compliance with regulations.
– Providing adequate training to drivers.
– Avoiding incentives that could encourage drivers to break the rules, such as distance or load-based bonuses.
– Downloading driver cards every 28 days and vehicle units every 90 days, as per legal requirements.

Consequences of Non-Compliance: In the event of drivers’ hours violations, the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) or the Police may take action, which can include the following:

  1. Punishment with a fixed penalty.
  2. Being ordered to appear in court.
  3. Submission to the Traffic Commissioner.
  4. For operators who permit the offences, they may face an unlimited fine as a summary only offence.

Furthermore, if the DVSA can prove that owners or management of a transport company were aware of drivers’ hours violations, they and the drivers may be charged with conspiracy, which could result in severe penalties, including lengthy prison sentences.

HGV tachograph offences are not to be taken lightly, as they pose risks to road safety and fair competition among transport operators. Adhering to the established regulations governing driver’s hours is crucial for preventing fatigue-related accidents and ensuring a level playing field. Drivers and operators must understand their respective responsibilities, avoid falsifying records, and stay compliant with the regulations. If facing investigation or charges related to tachograph offences, it is important to seek legal assistance promptly. Safety and accountability is paramount on our roads.