10 April 2017
Louth Road Haulage Operator fined €10,000 for breach of Road Safety regulations
Following an investigation by the Road Safety Authority (RSA), Owen McElroy Limited of Carrickrobin, Kilkerley, Dundalk, Co. Louth was before Dundalk District Court on 6 April 2017. The company, who operate a road transport business, pleaded guilty to a series of charges for failing to produce driver’s hours records in respect of several vehicles operated by the company.
The Court convicted and fined the company a total of €10,000 in respect of the charges and also made an award of costs. The RSA investigation revealed serious and systematic non-compliance by this road transport operator in ensuring compliance with the European Communities (Road Transport)( Working Conditions and Road Safety) Regulations 2008.
Since February 2011, the RSA has successfully prosecuted thirty eight cases against both road transport operators and drivers for breaches of driver’s hours, tachograph and road transport operator licensing laws in County Louth.
EU Regulations require operators to organise and monitor drivers work and the clear purpose of the regulations is to place a responsibility on an employer of drivers to prevent contraventions of the driver’s hours rules and to promote road safety.
The EU tachograph and driver’s hours rules are designed to protect against driver fatigue and to protect the travelling public. The existence of the tachograph and driver’s hours regulations and the detailed requirements designed to promote road safety, are widely known by employers of Heavy Good Vehicles (HGV) drivers. Non-compliance with the driver’s hour’s regulations results in driver fatigue which is a contributory factor to 1 in 5 driver deaths in Ireland. Operators in breach of driver’s hour’s requirements are profiting from undercutting compliant operators, contributing to unfair competition in the road haulage industry and are a serious cause of concern from a road safety perspective.
The RSA is working hard to make our roads safer. A more targeted approach towards enforcement is being implemented and those operators who are serially and seriously non-compliant are being targeted by the Authority and An Garda Síochána. The Authority tries to minimise disruption to the most compliant operators. A stepped approach to enforcement is applied by the RSA and only the most serious cases are taken to Court.
- The number of hours a professional driver can drive in a day/week is closely regulated in order to minimise fatigue-related collisions. Driver fatigue is a known risk factor in road collisions and can cause loss of concentration or worse, lead to a driver falling asleep at the wheel. Fatigue is a significant factor in heavy commercial vehicle crashes.
- EU law regulates the driving time of professional drivers using goods vehicles over 3.5t (including trailers) and passenger vehicles with more than 8 passenger seats.
The key requirements are that you must not drive:
- Without a break for more than 4.5 hours. After driving for 4.5 hours, a break of at least 45 minutes is mandatory. You can distribute that break over the 4.5 hours.
- For more than nine hours per day or 56 hours per week. This may be extended to 10 hours no more than twice during a week
- More than 90 hours in two consecutive weeks
There are also strict regulations regarding the average working time and the amount of rest that must be taken daily and weekly.
Tachographs are instruments that measure the amount of time a driver is on the road. There are two kinds: digital and analogue. Both are fitted in the cab of trucks and buses and are used to monitor compliance with driver hours’ legislation. Digital tachographs became mandatory in new commercial Lorries and buses in May 2006. The provision of driver cards for use by drivers, companies, calibration workshops and enforcement officers is central to digital tachographs.
Data is stored in the vehicle unit memory and on driver smart cards. The data contains a range of information including distance covered, vehicle speed (for previous 24 hours of driving), vehicle licence number, and driver activity (driving, rest, breaks, other work, periods of availability). A driver’s card can store information for a minimum of 28 days before it begins to be overwritten; the vehicle unit has a larger memory capacity and can store data for 365 days.
The vehicle operator has two key responsibilities in relation to both kinds of tachograph:
- To download the data from the driver’s cards (at least every 21 days) and vehicle units (at least every 90 days) and save this information for one year. The downloaded information must be made available in its “raw” format to an enforcement officer on request.
- To monitor drivers’ records and print-outs. If there are breaches of drivers’ rules, the operator must address them and take steps to ensure they do not happen again.
A Road Transport Operator Licence allows the holder to engage in the occupation of road transport operator, i.e. to carry out, for hire or reward, road haulage using vehicles with a maximum authorised weight in excess of 3.5 tonnes, or the transport of passengers in vehicles equipped to carry 9 or more passengers. Under Section 9(1) of the Road Transport Act 2011, it is an offence to engage in the occupation of road transport operator without holding a licence. Under Section 9(2) of the Road Transport Act 2011, it is an offence to use a vehicle in relation to the occupation of a road transport operator unless it is authorised on the operator’s licence.
Road haulage operators who use vehicles that are not authorised on their operator licences are breaking the law and are also contributing to unfair competition in the highly competitive licenced road haulage industry. Furthermore, licensed operators convicted for offences such as this may be subject to good repute checks by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport which could ultimately result in the withdrawal or suspension of a road transport operator’s licence.