Under new rules, motorists committing the offence of using a hand-held mobile phone while driving will get six points on their licence and face a £200 fine.
However, HGV drivers face additional sanctions over and above the increased points and fines through the industry’s regulator, the traffic commissioners.
TCs can and do take action against drivers who use hand held mobile phones. If caught committing such an offence, the police automatically pass the offence information to the relevant traffic commissioner.
This action is also taken against HGV drivers committing such an offence when driving vehicles other than HGVs, as the commissioners consider truck drivers must maintain high professional standards at all times – even when driving cars or other vehicles.
“As far as the road haulage sector is concerned, employers and drivers are urged to help eradicate this practice from the industry once and for all,” said Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association (RHA). “Those that continue to flout the law are putting lives and their own livelihoods as risk.
“Our compliance audit team always stress the importance of a company mobile phone policy to be included in all driver contracts of employment,” he added. “Failure to do so can have serious repercussions, both for the driver and the employer.
“The RHA fully supports the additional sanctions taken by the traffic commissioners against professional drivers convicted of using hand-held mobiles while driving.”
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) also agreed with the plans, but pointed out better enforcement is essential.
“These proposed changes should go some way towards making all drivers think about the consequences of their actions,” said Ian Gallagher, FTA head of driver and vehicle licensing policy. “Vocational drivers also risk their livelihood as many of our members already have in place a zero tolerance for employees in breach of these rules.”
FTA’s response to the consultation highlighted concerns there was a lack of proactive enforcement of this offence. The Association therefore welcomed the Department’s commitment to provide additional guidance or advice and consider new technology where it aids detection and ensure effective prosecution by the police.
“We agree these increased penalties should work to dissuade use, particularly in new drivers who risk losing their licence altogether,” Gallagher added. “However, what is needed is a new effort to ensure the rules are enforced. Without enforcement, increasing the fines and penalties could have little impact on habitual users.”