Thursday, 14 April 2011
The judge, at Norwich Crown Court, sent three container drivers to prison for falsifying tachograph records. The drivers, who all worked for a sole trader in the Norfolk town of Downham Market and transported containers in and out of the port of Felixstowe, had been using a variety of tricks to produce inaccurate records of their driving behaviour.
These had included driving without a tachograph chart, pulling the fuse out of the tachograph to stop it working properly and carrying out widespread ‘wind backs’ to give a false impression of the amount of time drivers spent at the wheel.
The three drivers were given various length sentences between four and eight months. Two other drivers, who had committed lesser offences, were given 150 hours community service.
The trial was the result of a two-year investigation by VOSA, the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency. After the verdict VOSA’s operations director Alex Fiddes said: "Although this is a tremendous result for VOSA, it is sad to see that a small minority of unscrupulous operators are prepared to break the rules and disregard road safety in this way. The severity of the sentences reflects the importance of drivers' hours rules. HGV drivers must stick to the rules and take proper rest, otherwise they risk causing serious accidents.”
That final statement is the one that really rings true.
Vehicle tracking and telematics devices aren’t installed just to measure meaningless statistics and allow fleet managers to ‘spy‘ on their staff for no good reason. They are there to ensure the safety and welfare of not just drivers but other road users. In the bad old days, lorry drivers would be forced to work every hour of the day and regularly fell asleep at the wheel - with tragic consequences. Awful accidents involving overworked drivers are now - thankfully - a rarity and telematics have played a huge part in improving the situation.
The judge at Norwich Crown Court gave the whole industry a boost by sending out such a clear message.