Last reviewed 26 August 2015

Paul Clarke looks ahead and summarises key legislation that will affect hauliers in the near and more distant future.

Professional driver conduct

The Statutory Document on Vocational Driver Conduct, which was first issued in 2011 and which sets out the standards for professional lorry, bus and coach drivers and applicants, is to be revised by the Senior Traffic Commissioner, Beverley Bell.

In a consultation open until 7 September 2015, she has sought views on a number of matters, including:

  • how to achieve consistent regulatory outcomes for drivers

  • the referral and starting points for action against drivers

  • the delegation of matters to staff acting on behalf of traffic commissioners.

Ms Bell said that she was particularly interested to hear if respondents believe that the proposed revised document will help to ensure a consistent regulatory outcome for drivers who commit infringements.

Safer Lorry Scheme

Only lorries with basic safety equipment fitted will be allowed on London's roads after 1 September 2015 when the Safer Lorry Scheme comes into operation.

Most vehicles that are currently exempt from national legislation with regard to basic safety equipment will have to be retrofitted. This includes construction vehicles, which are involved in a disproportionate number of fatal collisions involving cyclists and pedestrians, Transport for London (TfL) points out.

Vehicles over 3.5 tonnes that are currently exempt will be required, after the deadline, to be fitted with:

  • Class V and Class VI mirrors giving the driver a better view of cyclists and pedestrians around their vehicles

  • side guards to protect cyclists from being dragged under the wheels in the event of a collision.

Enforced by the Metropolitan Police Service, City of London Police and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), the scheme will operate across London, 24-hours a day, seven days a week, covering the same area as the Low Emission Zone (LEZ).

German toll

With effect from 1 October 2015, Germany will introduce a toll requirement for vehicles and vehicle combinations with a gross vehicle weight of 7.5 tonnes or more. Companies whose trucks will be subject to the toll are being advised to register with Toll Collect and then have an On-Board Unit (OBU) fitted for automatic log-on to the toll system.

Once the driver has set the number of axles, the OBU takes care of everything else, with all data required for toll calculation being saved in the Unit. The OBU continually compares the received GPS signal to its enclosed route map and checks whether the road being used is subject to toll. It then calculates the toll and sends the time-delayed and encrypted sums to the Toll Collect computing centre. Companies that do not wish to have an OBU fitted will still be able to pay via the internet or at one of 3600 toll station terminals. The tickets can be booked up to three days in advance.

International road haulage Quality Charter

Managers and drivers involved in pan-European road haulage operations will be able to apply to join a Quality Charter for the international road freight sector from 1 January 2016, when it is introduced by the International Transport Forum (ITF). It is hoped that the Charter will help establish the Multilateral Quota system as a symbol of quality, safety and environmental standards in road transport. As usual with such schemes, there will be a reputational advantage for those companies which decide to join.

New generation tachographs

By 2 March 2016, the latest EU regulation on tachographs in road transport (EU Regulation 165/2014) will come into force in all 28 Member States, replacing the 30 year-old Tachograph Regulation (3821/85). The new Regulation (165/2014) is aimed at helping to tackle fraud by making the tachograph more resistant to tampering, as well as allowing for easier enforcement. It also aims to reduce administrative burdens and strengthens standards that workshops must meet in order to install, check, inspect and repair the tachograph.

It provides for a new technical specification for digital tachographs and cards, so that a new generation of tachographs will enter the market around 2019 and will be required to be installed in new vehicles. Operators and drivers will note that the new tachographs will provide for a remote enforcement capability, allowing an enforcement officer to interrogate a digital tachograph remotely at the roadside to assess whether to stop a vehicle.

When does this come into effect?

2 March 2016 is the earliest that Regulation 165/2014 can come into effect. There is still some enabling legislation to be published by the European Commission in order for it to do so and, if that is delayed for any reason, the coming into force of 165/2014 will be similarly delayed. The current UK legislative framework will therefore remain in place until at least 2 March 2016.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has said: “We do not anticipate that there will be significant changes to tachograph centres as a result of the new (EU) regulation because we already consider that these centres operate within strict requirements which meet the new EU requirements.”

Regulation 165/2014 provides that three years following the entry into force of the detailed provisions (to be published by the Commission as “implementing regulations”), vehicles registered for the first time must be fitted with a new generation tachograph. These detailed provisions (effectively the annexes to 165/2014) are expected to be published by 2 March 2016; if they are not available by then, the three years will start from their publication.

Therefore, this makes 2 March 2019 the earliest date by which new generation tachographs can be required.

In the distance…

Driving licences and vehicle adaptations

Member States still have some considerable time to get into step with EU Directive 2015/653, which updates Directive 2006/126/EC on driving licences with particular regard to the field of vehicle adaptations and technical support for drivers with disabilities. The deadline for implementation is 1 January 2017, by which time all Member States (including the UK) must also be compliant with a harmonised code on the use of alcohol interlocks in vehicles.

Any operator thinking of introducing such a device into one of their vehicles is advised to ensure that it complies with standard BS EN 50436-1:2014 before the above date.

Cross-border exchange of information

Similarly, Directive 2015/413, which facilitates the cross-border exchange of information on road safety related traffic offences, does not have to be implemented in the UK until 6 May 2017. It concerns the enforcement of sanctions, where those offences are committed with a vehicle (passenger or freight) registered in a Member State other than the Member State in which the offence took place.

It applies to a number of offences including:

  • speeding

  • failing to stop at a red traffic light

  • driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol

  • the use of a forbidden lane

  • illegally using a mobile telephone or any other communication devices while driving.

Weights and dimensions

Also coming into force in the UK in 2017 (on 7 May), Directive 2015/719 will amend Directive 96/53/EC on the authorised weights and dimensions of road vehicles. Technological developments make it possible to attach retractable aerodynamic devices to the rear of vehicles. However, to do so would result in the maximum lengths permitted under Directive 96/53/EC being exceeded.

Directive 2015/719 aims to allow the installation of such devices as soon as the necessary amendments to the technical requirements for type-approval of the aerodynamic devices are transposed or applied, and the European Commission has adopted implementing acts laying down the operational rules for the use of such devices. Similarly improved aerodynamics of the cabs of motor vehicles would allow significant gains in respect of the energy performance of vehicles. Aerodynamic devices exceeding 500mm in length and motor vehicles equipped with cabs that improve their aerodynamic performance, where such vehicles exceed the limits set by Directive 96/53/EC, are to be type-approved before being placed on the market.

Finally, while 45-foot containers are increasingly being used, they can only be carried on the road if both the Member States and the transporters follow cumbersome administrative procedures, or if those containers have patented chamfered corners, the cost of which is prohibitive. Provision is therefore made in the new directive for vehicle manufacturers to increase the authorised length of the vehicles transporting such containers by 15cm to eliminate those administrative procedures for transporters and to facilitate intermodal transport operations, without risk or prejudice to the road infrastructure or other road users.

Alternative fuel strategy

By 18 November 2016, Member States must have implemented EU Directive 2014/94 on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure.

The EU acknowledges that liquefied natural gas (LNG), including liquefied biomethane, might offer a cost-efficient technology allowing heavy-duty vehicles to meet the stringent pollutant emission limits of Euro VI standards. It therefore requires all Members States to ensure, by means of their national policy frameworks, that an appropriate number of refuelling points for LNG, accessible to all drivers, are put in place by 31 December 2025. These must be in position at least along the existing TEN-T Core Network, in order to ensure that LNG heavy-duty motor vehicles can circulate throughout the Union.