The London and South East of England Traffic Commissioner has said that parts of the haulage industry need a culture change when it comes to downloading digital tachograph records.
Nick Denton's call comes after he suspended a London council’s licence and revoked another operator’s authority for failing do so – despite both being warned about the requirements.
Nick Denton’s call for operators to recognise and carry out their legal duties comes after the London Borough of Croydon transport department failed to carry out any downloads from vehicle tachograph units over a 10 month period.
At a previous public inquiry in 2014, the Council had given assurances that monthly downloads would be carried out. However, last month, the Traffic Commissioner heard evidence that this commitment had not been met, owing to IT problems.
Suspending the operator’s licence for 72 hours, Mr Denton said the council’s lapse was particularly disappointing given the previous public inquiry.
He added: “No one in the Council’s IT department or otherwise in a senior position appears to have realised the importance of effecting downloads from the vehicle units until quite late on. The transport manager did not have effective line management over drivers.”
Denton noted that, fortunately, the failure to download from vehicle units did not disguise any very serious drivers’ hours infringements.
During a separate inquiry, Mr Denton heard that a leading Faversham food business, Macknade Fine Foods, had failed to download data from the vehicle’s tachograph unit since first purchasing it in 2011.
The issues were identified when one of the partnership’s drivers was stopped in December 2015. Despite the matter being brought to the firm’s attention, by the time of the public inquiry in March 2016, the operator had only purchased the download equipment. It had still not actually performed any downloads.
The driver stopped at the roadside had committed serious daily and weekly rest offences and appeared to be continuing to do so. He also drove for a period without having completed the five training modules necessary for driver CPC.
Denton said: “In short, this is an operator who has had little appreciation of the regulatory environments which go with HGV operation and who has made insufficient efforts to improve after the police stop in December 2015.”
He made an order to revoke the licence from 23 May 2016, including amongst the reasons for this a change of entity from a partnership (Stefano Cuomo, Patricia Cuomo and Renato Cuomo) to a limited company.
Addressing the failures of both operators to act upon advice from enforcement and regulatory bodies, Denton said:
“The cases concern two very different operations but highlight that the standards are the same no matter what type of work you are involved in.
“Traffic commissioners issue licences to applicants who meet the relevant criteria and agree to uphold a number of commitments to vehicle and driver safety.
“Operators should be aware that if they fail to meet those standards, there will be consequences for their licence. For those that have already been before a Traffic Commissioner, or been subject to an enforcement stop or visit, there is no excuse for failing to make any necessary improvements.
“I am concerned about the culture of downloading digital data across the industry and these two cases illustrate the problem most acutely. Both operators abandoned their responsibilities for considerable periods of time. Without carrying out downloads, how could they possibly know whether drivers were working legally and safely? How could they satisfy their licence commitments?”
“Running heavy goods vehicles is a serious concern – operator licence holders need to make an investment in compliance, not just respond to the work and keep the vehicles moving.
Both the London Borough of Croydon and Macknade Fine Foods were given direct warnings about their failures to carry out downloads. That should have been enough to achieve the cultural changes required.”
Denton added: “I would advise operators running digital vehicles to review their downloading practices now to ensure that downloads are carried out within the legal time limits, and do the job which they are designed to do: identify drivers who exceed the driving limits and take action to make sure that they don’t do it again.”