More than 5% – one in 20 – commercial vehicles stopped last year had breached drivers’ hours rules.
New figures published by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) reveal that in 2016/17 it made nearly 90,000 checks to ensure that commercial drivers weren’t driving for longer than allowed, risking fatigue-related accidents.
The agency found more than one in 20 (5.3%) of drivers had broken the rules on maximum driving hours.
The figures have fallen since 2015/16, when the overall offending rate was 7.3%, but still includes breaking of the rules by: 5.1% of GB lorry drivers; 5.9% of foreign lorry drivers; and almost one in 10 (9.4%) of foreign LGV drivers.
Bus and coach drivers checked do slightly better, but 3.7% of UK bus drivers and 4.9% of those in foreign vehicles are still putting their passengers, and other road users, at risk.
DVSA chief executive Gareth Llewellyn said: “The figures might be going in the right direction but, with more than one in 20 drivers checked committing an offence, they are still far too high.
“Tougher penalties will help us to take stronger action against any drivers or operators who break the law, helping make our roads safer.”
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) says driving while tired may be responsible for one in five of all accidents and up to a quarter of serious and fatal crashes on Britain’s roads.
The risk is particularly high for commercial drivers, who tend to drive longer distances and spend more time on the road.
According to the Government’s road safety campaign Think, almost half of sleep-related accidents involve commercial vehicles. And, almost a quarter of injuries from accidents involving lorries are fatal or serious, compared to one in eight of all crashes.
That’s why, from the beginning of last month (March), DVSA has been issuing fixed penalties of up to £300 not just for drivers’ hours offences committed on the day that drivers are checked, but for up to five offences committed over the preceding 28 days.
Llewellyn said: “DVSA’s priority is to protect you from unsafe drivers and vehicles.
“There’s no excuse for driving while tired. The results of falling asleep at the wheel can be devastating. Any driver or operator breaking these rules is putting other road users at risk.”