• International Workplace
  • 26 September 2017

Driving when tired: changes to fines for commercial drivers

Commercial drivers who drive tired will be fined for every time they’ve committed the offence in the last 28 days under changes to rules that govern how many hours should be driven and the breaks that should be taken.

Currently, about 40% of sleep-related accidents involve commercial vehicles. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), driving while tired may be responsible for:

  • one in five of all accidents; and
  • up to a quarter of serious and fatal crashes.

Under the new rules, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) can fine drivers up to £300 if they’re caught; they can also be prosecuted or have their vehicle immobilised.

At the moment, DVSA can only fine drivers for:

  • offences committed that day; and
  • ongoing offences, like manipulating tachograph records, which record drivers’ hours.

DVSA traffic examiners will be given new powers to issue on-the-spot fines for any drivers’ hours offences committed in the last 28 days.

In a single roadside check, examiners will be able to issue fines for up to five drivers’ hours offences and drivers could be fined up to £1,500 in a single check if they’ve consistently broken the rules.

It won’t matter if the offences took place in Great Britain or elsewhere. The rules will also apply to drivers who don’t live in Great Britain. However, they’ll need to pay any fines immediately, before being allowed to continue their journey.

DVSA traffic examiners will also start issuing fines to deal with drivers who don’t properly rest. Lorry, bus and coach drivers must take a 45-hour rest break at least every fortnight.

From 1 November 2017, DVSA will start to fine drivers up to £300 if they spend their full weekly rest break in their vehicle in places where it causes a problem – for example, if a lorry driver spends their full break in the cab of their lorry in a layby.

Spending the weekly rest break in the cab can:

  • contribute to drivers not properly resting; and
  • expose drivers to poor living conditions.

DVSA Chief Executive, Gareth Llewellyn, said:

“These tougher fines will help us to take stronger action against any drivers or operators who break drivers’ hours rules and will help make our roads safer.

“There’s no excuse for driving while tired. The results of falling asleep at the wheel of a 40-tonne lorry can be devastating to families and communities. Any driver breaking these rules is putting other road users at risk and could face losing their licence and livelihood.”

James Firth, the Freight Transport Association’s Head of Licensing Policy and Compliance Information, said:

“For some years, DVSA officers have been virtually powerless to take effective action against non-UK HGV drivers who may have committed a string of offences in the days and weeks before the vehicle is stopped.

“These new powers mean the enforcement authorities will be more able – and more likely – to take action against all drivers who are found to have repeatedly flouted these critical road safety laws.”