Barney Goffer, product manager at Teletrac Navman
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted all corners of the transport and logistics industry. To limit the damage, the Government has temporarily relaxed and suspended certain rules to make it easier for operators to continue working through the disruption.
One of the relaxations is in relation to the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours in England, Scotland and Wales. Under the temporary rules, drivers’ hours have been raised to 11 hours at the wheel with a reduced rest requirement.
The special measures run until Sunday May 31 and are designed to ensure food, important non-food items such PPE for hospitals, and over the counter pharmaceuticals reach their destinations to meet the increased demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While increased flexibility to drivers’ hours will help urgent deliveries arrive on time, it must not compromise safety nor be taken advantage of as it could potentially put drivers and other roads users at risk.
Indeed, the nationwide lockdown has already encouraged increased levels of careless driving, with motorists exploiting the quieter roads by driving at excessive speeds.
It is imperative that operators recognise that limits to time behind the wheel were originally imposed on safety grounds, to protect the working conditions of drivers, reduce fatigue and prevent incidences of careless driving.
Prolonged driver working hours can heighten stress and impact mental wellbeing, so the relaxations should only be utilised where genuinely necessary.
Operators need to be clear on the new rules and communicate with certainty to drivers who may think they have free rein, as policing the enforcement will not get overlooked and penalties still apply for failure to comply.
To ensure everyone sticks to the rules, monitoring driver working hours and the frequency of rest breaks according to tachograph information is as important as ever.
Now, operators must also identify when drivers are exceeding normal limits, document when a relaxation has been applied and state why it was necessary.
Remember, the authorities may investigate any case where a driver has exceeded their legal working hours. It is therefore important that the temporary measures are only employed if they can be fully justified, with robust documentation as proof – a duty of care to the drivers is just as big a priority as getting deliveries to their destinations.
Operators that have a telematics system integrated with their tachograph unit will be in a strong position to do this, as they will have a much clearer picture of the what their fleet are doing on the road, in real time, and make more informed decisions as a result.
With the right data, planning and fleet visibility in place, operators that need to take of advantage of the relaxation in legislation will be able to do so in a safe and effective way.
This will ensure one of their most important assets are kept safe and managed correctly, whilst simultaneously protecting the safety of other road users.