Even in the best run transport business, there will inevitably be occasions when drivers cut corners, make mistakes or in some cases deliberately bend the rules. In this article, Chris Powell looks at the practical processes and procedures that transport managers and operators should have in place to:
monitor driver compliance and identify drivers’ hours infringements
investigate the cause of infringements
take effective action to address any causes identified
keep proper records of the entire process.
The key responsibilities on transport managers are set out in the Senior Traffic Commissioner’s Statutory Guidance Document No. 3: Transport Managers. In addition to being of good repute, transport managers are expected to continuously and effectively manage the transport operations of the business. Examples are provided of the sort of activities which may be expected of a transport manager. These are extensive, but include:
ensuring driver compliance with the relevant EU and domestic drivers’ hours rules
ensuring drivers are recording their duty, driving time and rest breaks on the appropriate equipment
ensuring that drivers are adequately trained and competent to operate all relevant vehicles and equipment
contributing to relevant training and any subsequent disciplinary processes as required.
Monitoring driver compliance and identifying infringements
It is impossible for a transport manager to have continuous and effective control unless they are actively monitoring their drivers’ activities. This includes regularly downloading vehicle unit data (at intervals not exceeding 90 days) and driver card data (at intervals not exceeding 28 days), and proper analysis of that data to detect infringements.
By far the easiest way is to use professional tachograph analysis software to produce regular reports identifying any drivers’ hours infringements and providing full details.
Investigating the cause of infringements
When a drivers’ hours infringement has been identified, the transport manager should carry out an investigation into how it arose. He or she should meet with the driver, present them with the evidence, and seek an explanation.
In some cases, a driver will be able to provide further important explanatory detail. For example, a period of continuous driving over 4.5 hours may be the result of an unforeseen traffic accident which delayed the driver from being able to pull over safely.
In this situation, if the driver has not already submitted a properly endorsed tachograph printout, he should be asked if he has one. If not, as part of the investigation process, the transport manager will want to know the reason for this.
In all cases, the transport manager should be proactive in examining any explanations provided and consider whether any further action is necessary.
Taking effective action to address the cause
Once the identification and investigation process is complete, the transport manager should not stop there. Perhaps the most important step is to decide on the appropriate action to take as a result. This will be different in each case, and will depend upon the seriousness of the infringement, the perceived culpability of the driver and the cause of the infringement.
The following examples illustrate some of the possible actions that may be taken in given circumstances — although they are not presented as legal advice or as official guidance. Every case will turn on its own facts and all actions should be taken in accordance with the relevant employment law.
A newly qualified driver has committed a number of minor drivers’ hours infringements. It is apparent from the investigation that he is confused about some of the drivers’ hours rules and had not realised that what he was doing was wrong.
As the driver is inexperienced, the transport manager may decide to give him a toolbox talk addressing those drivers’ hours rules he is confused about and monitor the situation closely going forward.
A driver has knowingly driven considerable distances on a number of occasions after removing his card from the tachograph unit to conceal the fact that he would otherwise have driven in excess of his hours.
The transport manager decides that by knowingly driving without his card in an attempt to conceal his hours, the driver has committed gross misconduct and placed at serious risk both the public and the business. Consequently, the driver is dismissed from his employment in line with the gross misconduct clause in his employment contract.
Keeping effective records
Full records should be kept of the entire process including:
the infringement reports
the record of the driver meeting along with any evidence presented (eg annotated tachograph printouts/logbook entries, etc)
any action taken as a result of the findings of the investigation including any written warnings, notices of dismissal or periods of further training.
So what does a transport manager need to do?
Transport managers should do the following.
Fully acquaint themselves with their legal duties as set out in the relevant Statutory Guidance Document (see above).
Ensure driver cards and vehicle units are regularly downloaded and analysed for infringements.
Meet with any drivers who have infringements and carry out a fully documented investigation into the cause of any infringement.
Take effective but proportionate action to ensure that similar infringements do not occur in the future.
Keep full records of the entire process.
Last reviewed 1 November 2018