The BBC reported on an increase in tachograph tampering in the UK roads with over 440 HGVs crossing into the UK last year with manipulated tachographs.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) believes a further 400 drivers were cheating using sophisticated “interrupters” to switch off the vehicles’ tachograph. The DVSA suspects that haulage bosses could be behind it as the devices are difficult to install and often they are found in more than one vehicle from the same operator.
Between April 2016 and March 2017, the DVSA carried out 223,000 roadside checks and found a 21% increase in the number of drivers with manipulated tachographs compared with the previous year. The tachograph interrupters are used mainly by European drivers crossing into the UK, to flout drivers’ hours regulations – e.g. a Bulgarian driver found with a manipulated tachograph in north Wales in March 2017 had driven 23 hours non-stop. Tired drivers represent a massive risk on our roads. But there is an added risk as the interrupters disable a HGV’s advanced braking systems and speedometers when they are being used.
Local Police investigations suggest the use of the interrupters could be even higher than found by the DVSA. In a recent operation in Nottinghamshire 22 drivers were arrested and charged after being found to be using the devices. Sgt Steve Warren said “Unfortunately, some of these drivers are not earning a lot of money,” adding. “And they are telling us they are getting pressure from the company to use the device. I think they are readily available now and there are a lot more fitted to the vehicles.”
Road transport unions believe operators from other EU countries will risk getting caught with the technology as the penalties (often a £300 fixed penalty) in the UK are small. British operators whose drivers get caught manipulating their tachographs can be taken off the road by the Traffic Commissioner, which licenses operators in England, Scotland and Wales. Tachograph analysis and reporting solutions such as Smartanalysis are well established and available for just 25p per driver per day to manage compliance with drivers’ hours in the UK.
The European Commission initiative, the European Register of Road Transport Undertakings, means an offence committed by a driver in one European country can lead to the closure of that driver’s company in his or her home country. But BBC 5 Live Investigates found no evidence that the powers have been used in the five years the system has been in place and some countries have not even connected to it yet.
Enforcement and having penalties which deter offending is the key to changing behaviour. But it is up to member European states to use the system to enforce road offences committed in other countries. In the meantime, are the penalties for tampering with the vehicle tachograph sufficient to deter operators outside the UK?
Source: 5 live Investigates: Tachographs broadcast on BBC Radio 5 live on Sunday 24 September at 11:00 BST.
Posted on: 25.09.2017