Friday 18 September 2020

Traffic Commissioner posts warning on mobile phone use

mobilephone_lowresNick Jones, the traffic commissioner (TC) for the West Midlands and Wales, told the Freight Transport Association’s Transport Manager’s conference in Chepstow that he planned to do more about drivers and mobile phones, by issuing a code of conduct to cover their use in trucks and buses.

His announcement came as forthcoming new penalty rules were revealed for the offence of using a handheld phone while driving.

The new rules will see offending car drivers get six points on their licences and face a £200 fine, with newly-qualified drivers being made to retake their tests after they are caught the first time.

More experienced drivers could face a court appearance on their second offence, where they would face fines of up to £1,000 and a minimum six-month driving ban. The current punishment is £100 and three points, and the tougher penalties are expected to come into force in the first half of next year.

Truck and bus drivers caught using handheld mobiles currently face a professional conduct hearing before a TC after their conviction.

TC Jones said: “Mobiles distract drivers and are becoming an increasingly frequent factor in cases of causing death by dangerous driving.

“I have to deal with cases where professional drivers are leaving prison and want to resume professional driving. The reason they were sent to prison is they killed someone because they were texting while driving.

“Mobile phone use while driving is part of the culture in white van man world.

“And to managers here today, yes, I’ve got a concern if you ring drivers and expect them to answer the phone while they are driving.”

He explained that drivers before him on conduct cases for using the phone while driving would be asked if they were expected to take calls from the office while at the wheel.

“I will take proportionate but firm action against the employer in those cases,” he warned.

Questioned by Transport Operator on his attitude to the use of hands-free phones in trucks, TC Jones responded with caution.

“If Parliament has said that it is legal to use a hands-free phone then it’s not for me to stop it. However, if you are an employer, my advice is don’t do it!”

His advice conflicts with the attitude of the Road Haulage Association, which believes hands-free phones are in a quite different category from handheld mobile devices and supports their limited use.

“Hands-free mobiles are used in lorries as a business tool, bringing economic and environmental benefits, including reducing the mileage travelled by vehicles through improving efficiency,” said RHA chief executive Richard Burnett.

However, the association fully supported increased penalties for all drivers using handheld phones while driving and also supports calls for improved enforcement.

“As far as the road haulage sector is concerned, the RHA is urging employers and drivers to help to eradicate the practice from the industry once and for all,” Mr Burnett said.

“There is abundant evidence that use of handheld mobiles – as opposed to hands-free devices – is a major cause of road accidents. The two issues should not be confused. The use of handheld mobiles is the safety risk that has to be addressed, through much stronger deterrents.”

In addition, the RHA fully backs the additional sanctions taken by TCs against professional drivers convicted of using handheld mobiles while driving.

5 comments

  1. Phillip Moore says:

    The grey area of using handsfree equipment needs clarifying, would the TC take action against an employer or driver ?

  2. The biggest problem today is drivers texting, or reading texts, whilst driving. You can more often than not see a driver, Cars and LGV’s, swerving and leaving their lane on a motorway because of their actions. Unfortunately, when alone, you cannot film them or report them for dangerous driving. A couple of hundred pounds fine is nothing taking into account what damage they could do, not to mention the potential death toll. Increase the fines so drivers are under no illusions what will happen if caught, Life is precious and should be protected against these idiots actions.

  3. AJ Wilcox says:

    To pick up from Phillip’s comment: The police view of a driver involved in an incident if found to have been using a hands free device is that they would still prosecute for driving without due care and attention – in fact they would actually examine the phone records for a period prior to the incident to see if this could be proved (hands free or not), but if included a fatality then this would spiral to something a lot worse and the driver would have very little by way of defence when this is known to be a particular hot subject. Answer is handheld should be left, hands free limited use in emergencies but if non urgent left until later. The TC’s have already stated that they would take severe action against any Transport company knowingly phoning drivers when they are behind the wheel and resulted in an accident when they were on the phone I.e possible revocation of the ‘O’ licence – some TM’s and staff need to be reminded of the additional risk besides loss of life or injury to what the further ramerfacations would be to a business if they lost the operating licence, not just the driver!

  4. AJP says:

    Totally wrong, in my eyes.
    You call someone and they have the ability to see who is calling – without touching their phone – and choose to ignore.
    You text someone, they are constantly wondering who that text is from. Is it my partner telling me something is wrong and I need to come home. Is it my child that needs me.
    Total B******t.

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