The DVSA has recorded a 21 per cent increase in the detection of tachograph cheating offences from April 2016 to March 2017 compared to the previous year, with the vast majority of offences having occurred in trucks registered in foreign countries.
It reports that many of these offences appear to be being carried out in an organised manner by operators, rather than just being cases of individual drivers occasionally running ‘on the wire’ to catch a ferry or get home.
The agency carried out 223,000 roadside checks in that period and uncovered 440 offences being committed in foreign vehicles. It also suspected that a further 400 foreign-registered trucks were running with manipulated recording equipment, but was unable to prove this because of the sophistication of the fraud.
A broadcast on BBC Radio 5 Live suggested that the actual instance of ‘bent running’ by foreign truckers was far higher: the DVSA figures do not include offences detected by police officers rather than its own staff.
The radio station quoted Sergeant Steve Warren of Nottinghamshire Police, who had recently arrested and charged 22 offending drivers, as saying: “Unfortunately, some of these drivers are not earning a lot of money, and they are telling us they are getting pressure from the company to use the device. I think they are readily available now and there are a lot more fitted to the vehicles.”
While British drivers and operators face the loss of operator and vocational driving licences on top of criminal penalties for tacho fraud, the suggestion is that for many foreign operators, the prospect of fines for the offences is regarded as little more than a tax, and the rewards for noncompliance exceed the cost of getting caught.
In theory, the European Commission’s Register of Road Transport Undertakings means that offences committed abroad can impact on good repute at home. But 5 Live said it could find no evidence that the powers had ever been used in the five years that the system has been in place. Poland, whose drivers were responsible for 467 offences, and Portugal (55 offences) have not even connected their licensing system to the European network.
An EC spokesman told the BBC it was pursuing legal action against those nations which had yet to join the system, but that it was up to individual member states to enforce the law against their own hauliers.
While the dangers of tired drivers regularly going over their hours are obvious, tampering with the digital tachograph also creates even greater dangers as it can interfere with the vehicle’s road-speed limiter, speedometer and anti-lock braking system.
Image: DVSA Crown copyright