As an HGV/LGV driver we understand that your driving and HGV licences are absolute necessities. Lose one of these and often you can also say goodbye to your job and perhaps maybe even your home.
Did you know that, as an HGV/LGV driver, you are specifically targeted by the police? In the past few months, The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) and the Traffic Commissioner have signed a new agreement to tackle professional drivers who use their mobiles whilst driving. Not only will there be special police initiatives to catch drivers but now these cases will also be reported to traffic commissioner.
Speaking of this so-called ‘Memorandum of Understanding’, Deputy Chief Constable Tom Ewing of Fife Constabulary, speaking for Acpos, said:
“The use of communication devices such as mobile phones is distracting and dangerous, and the consequences of professional drivers carrying passengers or large loads losing concentration could be catastrophic”.
The statement could not be clearer. YOU are being targeted by the police. Now DCC Ewing is of course correct that driving while using a mobile phone can be distracting and people caught doing so should pay the consequences. However our experience tells us that the police can and do make mistakes and, when police officers are being directed to target a particular class of driver, we can only expect these mistakes to become more and more prevalent in cases like YOURS.
You may ask ‘but who will believe me over the police’? It is a good question, particularly when leading employers such as Malcolm Group have given their full support to the initiative. Your employer may not back you but WE will.
You may already be aware of the wide-ranging powers of the Traffic Commissioner. But did you know that the Traffic Commissioner can take action against you even if the prosecuting authorities decide not to? Incredibly this is indeed the case and an unfortunate HGV driver can have his case thrown out of court and still face the wrath of the Traffic Commissioner. It seems that HGV/LGV drivers must not only establish their innocence once, they may have to establish it twice.
The Traffic Commissioner has wide-ranging powers. An HGV/LGV driver has his vocational licence issued through the Traffic Commissioner and what the Commissioner giveth, the Commissioner can sometimes taketh away. The Traffic Commissioner has the right to suspend, revoke or refuse to grant a drivers licence. In such circumstances the Traffic Commissioner is likely to call the driver to a hearing so that the driver can give an explanation of their conduct. The Commissioner also has the power to call the police officers concerned as witnesses.
The Commissioner’s powers are not limited to circumstances where you are driving your HGV. Under the’fit and proper person’ test, the Commissioner can take into account ANY alleged offence. You can receive a ticket while driving your OWN car and still be answerable to the Commissioner at a Driver Conduct Hearing.
In 2012, 223 professional drivers were called to appear before the Traffic Commissioner at a Driver Conduct Hearings for driving offences, which included alleged offences such as speeding and the use of mobile phones while driving. The penalties involved can be extremely onerous. The Senior Traffic Commissioner’s Statutory Guidance and Directions (“the Guidance”) confirms that, whilst each case is decided on its own facts and merits, the starting point for a mobile phone offence committed in a HGV or PSV is the suspension of the driver’s vocational driving entitlement for a period of 21 days, to commence with immediate effect. The Guidance also confirms that, for subsequent mobile phone offences, this suspension will be multiplied accordingly (e.g. 2 x 21 days for a second offence, 3 x 21 days for a third offence and so on). This will impact heavily on drivers, as, for some, suspension of their vocational driving entitlement will mean loss of their employment and, consequently, their income.
Our advice is DO NOT attend such a Hearing alone. We can and do help drivers in this position, whether that is to secure your innocence or ensure the shortest possible suspension period. If we feel that the decision of the Commissioner is inappropriate we can also advise you on your rights of appeal.