Most operators are well aware of who the traffic commissioners are – and what they can do to licence holders who don’t maintain vehicle and driver safety standards. But what happens when professional drivers get it wrong?
Professional drivers appear before traffic commissioners on a regular basis when their conduct has been called into question.
Any matter relating to a driver’s professional conduct can be referred to a traffic commissioner by the Secretary of State.
Professional drivers conduct
A professional driver’s conduct can make them unfit to hold a licence, which can affect their ability to keep working and directly affect an operator’s business.
Whether a driver is applying for a vocational licence, already has a licence, or is applying to get a vocational entitlement back, their professional conduct is a critical factor.
They’re expected to fully understand the relevant legislation before carrying out their professional duties. This includes the rules around drivers’ hours and tachographs and other behaviour and offending, such as using a mobile phone while driving.
While traffic commissioners deal with every case of adverse conduct on the individual evidence and facts, guidance issued to the industry gives an indication of the likely starting points for specific and more serious offences.
Drivers’ hours, working time directive and tachograph offences
The drivers’ hours, working time and tachograph rules help vocational drivers keep the public safe when they’re using the road. The traffic commissioners always consider it a serious offence when drivers make a deliberate false record.
The case examples below show 2 types of deliberate action and the consequences for the drivers:
Falsifying drivers’ hours records
Mr Adams was stopped at the roadside whilst driving a bus. A DVSA Traffic Examiner detected 3 offences of falsifying drivers’ hours records and referred the matter to the traffic commissioner, who called Mr Adams to a driver conduct hearing.
The commissioner concluded that the driver had deliberately failed to keep a record (by ‘pulling’ the card) and issued a 4 week suspension for each offence – bringing the total to 12 weeks.
Manipulating a tachograph
Mr Taylor is caught using a magnet to manipulate the tachograph. A DVSA investigation revealed that Mr Taylor and other drivers had committed a number of false record offences by using magnets and interrupter devices.
The drivers were called to conduct hearings, where the traffic commissioner imposed periods of revocation and disqualification – the most serious case received up to 4 years.
Mobile phones and other electronic devices
Using a hand-held mobile phone, or similar device, when driving – except to call 999 or 112 in a genuine emergency when it is unsafe or impractical to stop – is illegal and presents a huge risk to road safety.
The type of action that traffic commissioners are likely to take against these offences (including in private vehicles) varies; the case example below shows the starting point for a driver with previous history.
Mr Smith holds a vocational driving licence and is referred to the traffic commissioner after using a mobile phone while driving a lorry. It’s his second offence. Mr Smith is called to a driver conduct hearing, where the traffic commissioner suspends his vocational entitlement for 8 weeks.
Find out more
You can find further guidance and case examples in the Senior Traffic Commissioner’s Statutory Document on Vocational Driver Conduct