The Traffic Commissioner’s “Seven Deadly Sins”
7 Most Serious Infringements
Starting off in the haulage and road transport industry for the first time can be a daunting experience. From day one an operator is expected to be 100% compliant with the many hundreds of rules, regulations, and directions governing the operation of their vehicles. These cover everything from the correct intervals with which to download a tachograph unit, to the advertising requirements of a new operating centre – and everything in between.
It is the role of the DVSA (formerly VOSA) and the Office of the Traffic Commissioner to enforce these regulations, and to take action if they are infringed. There are a wide range of powers open to the Traffic Commissioner if an operator is found to be breaking the rules. Some infringements are dealt with by way of a simple formal warning letter, whilst others can result in a total licence revocation and the disqualification of all the directors involved in the business.
At the very top of the list when it comes to seriousness of infringements, are those known as the “Seven Deadly Sins”. Committing just one of these will inevitably result in serious disciplinary action being taken. So what are they?
The 7 most serious infringements that that must be considered by a Traffic Commissioner when considering loss of good repute for an Operator or Transport Manager are detailed below.
- (a) Exceeding the maximum 6-day or fortnightly driving time limits by margins of 25 % or more, (b) Exceeding, during a daily working period, the maximum daily driving time limit by a margin of 50 % or more without taking a break or without an uninterrupted rest period of at least 4,5 hours.
- Not having a tachograph and/or speed limiter, or using a fraudulent device able to modify the records of the recording equipment and/or the speed limiter or falsifying record sheets or data downloaded from the tachograph and/or the driver card.
- Driving without a valid roadworthiness certificate if such a document is required under Community law and/or driving with a very serious deficiency of, inter alia, the braking system, the steering linkages, the wheels/tyres, the suspension or chassis that would create such an immediate risk to road safety that it leads to a decision to immobilise the vehicle.
- Transporting dangerous goods that are prohibited for transport or transporting such goods in a prohibited or non-approved means of containment or without identifying them on the vehicle as dangerous goods, thus endangering lives or the environment to such extent that it leads to a decision to immobilise the vehicle.
- Carrying passengers or goods without holding a valid driving licence or carrying by an undertaking not holding a valid Community licence.
- Driving with a driver card that has been falsified, or with a card of which the driver is not the holder, or which has been obtained on the basis of false declarations and/or forged documents.
- Carrying goods exceeding the maximum permissible laden mass by 20 % or more for vehicles the permissible laden weight of which exceeds 12 tonnes, and by 25 % or more for vehicles the permissible laden weight of which does not exceed 12 tonnes.
These are referred to as the 7 Deadly Sins.
If an Operator or Transport Manager commits any one or more of these Deadly Sins then their repute is on the line. Certainly repute would be lost unless the Traffic Commissioner decided that loss of repute would constitute a disproportionate response.
If the Traffic Commissioner decides the loss of good repute would not constitute a disproportionate response, the committing of a Deadly Sin will lead to the loss of good repute. But note the Deadly Sin only bites if a penalty has been incurred in respect of it.
It is obvious to see how these infringements endanger the public, and consequently why they are classed as the most serious. Every year drivers of HGVs fall asleep at the wheel, brake systems fail through poor maintenance, lorries spill their loads – deaths and serious injuries occur.
If suspected of having committed any of these “sins”, an operator may expect to be interviewed under caution by DVSA officers, and called before the Traffic Commissioner at a Public Inquiry to explain themselves. If the allegation is denied, they will have the opportunity to put forward whatever evidence they have to support their denial, and to cross examine a DVSA officer directly if necessary. If the allegation is accepted, they will have the opportunity to demonstrate what steps they have taken to prevent any infringements occurring in the future. The Traffic Commissioner will take a proactive role in asking questions and testing evidence.
The environment is not unlike a trial, and many operators understandably choose to instruct an expert road transport lawyer to assist them in preparing their case and representing them at the Inquiry.