From 5th March 2018, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s enforcement officers were able to issue fines up to £300 for up to five driver’s hours offences committed in the previous 28 days. This is known as historic driver’s hours offences. The DVSA announced that this could mean a fine of up to £1,500 in one stop for some offenders.
Prior to that date, the DVSA’s enforcement officers could only issue roadside fines for driver’s hours offences that were happening at the time of the check. If they identified any offences prior to that date, they would need to take the driver to Court to prosecute them, which would lead them to financial orders. The purpose of driver’s hours offences is to ensure that drivers are taking their necessary breaks, as driver fatigue remains a big problem in the industry, and not taking breaks may also be seen in some cases as anti-competitive.
On 20th March 2019, Mark Horton of the DVSA’s Enforcement Division wrote about the impact of historical driver’s hours one year on. The DVSA stated that in the year prior to bringing in the changes, from March 2018 to March 2019, 80,418 roadside enforcement encounters involved a driver’s hours check. 4,236 fixed penalties for driver’s hours offences were issued, totalling £478,400. However, in the year since the changes in March 2018, the DVSA performed 73,147 roadside enforcement encounters involving a driver’s hours check and issued 19,723 fixed penalties for driver’s hours offences, totalling £3,653,450. The DVSA describe those as massive increases, with the number of Fixed Penalties being issued increasing by 465% and the total amount of fines going up by 763%. The DVSA state that this is not about generating revenue, but about sending a clear message to drivers of the need to take their required breaks.
The offences and fines highlight the essential nature of Operators ensuring their drivers are working within regulations and taking the necessary break(s) required. If an allegation is made that is disputed by a driver, this should be pointed out at the roadside and challenged accordingly.
However, the figures recorded in enforcement encounters and the resulting fines issued over the course of 2018-19 demonstrate the extent of the alleged offending when it comes to driver’s hours, and how widespread it is. Operators need to ensure that drivers are aware of what is expected of them with regards to taking breaks, as it is them who will ultimately find their businesses out of pocket when fines are received.