Crack down on mobile phone usage
In 2015 it was announced that the Department for Transport (DfT) was looking into increasing the fine and penalty points for HGV Drivers caught using a mobile phone whilst driving. Under the proposed changes the fine will increase from £100 to £150 and the penalty points from 3 to 6.
The fine was increased from £60 to £100 in 2013 with no changes in penalty points, but there was no significant drop in the number of offenders, recent research has concluded that penalty points are more of a deterrent for drivers. Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said he wants to see using a phone while driving become a "social taboo, like not wearing a seatbelt".
These proposed changes are not unfairly targeting HGV drivers. Also in the proposal is increasing offences by non-HGV drivers from 3 to 4 points and increasing the fines from £100 to £150. The penalty points are set to double for HGV drivers to reflect the more severe nature of the accidents caused involving HGV-driving offenders. The DfT said: “Whilst accidents involving HGVs with mobile phone use as a contributory factor are relatively rare, it is clear that drivers of vehicles the size of HGVs have the ability to cause major accidents when distracted by using a mobile phone”.
We at ADR Network fully support these proposed changes to the fines and penalty points. We, like many in the industry, have a very strict ‘zero-tolerance’ on mobile phone usage whilst driving. It’s important that HGV drivers take their responsibility of driving these large and dangerous vehicles very seriously.
Whilst the proposed changes are supported by the Freight Transport Association (FTA) they have stated that better enforcement is needed before penalties are increased. After consulting with members at its Road Freight Council Meeting in London earlier this month, the FTA stated that “the use of modern technology and cameras should be able to enable authorities to improve enforcement and provide evidence against those breaking the law”.
The FTA goes on to say that; recent studies have also found that talking on a hand-held mobile phone can impair driving ability even more than when a motorist is above the drink-drive limit.
Legally if a driver has 12 penalty points within a three-year period, they could be disqualified by the court for at least six months. HGV drivers are also subject to regulation by the Traffic Commissioners and a second offence could lead to a 2 or 3 week suspension of their HGV licence.
The DfT will conclude its public consultation of the new penalties on March 15, and the new penalties are set to be put in place in July 2016.