Some sections of the industry, who have relied upon an exemption from the requirement to use tachograph equipment, may find that they now need to install and use tachograph equipment in their vehicles, due to tightening of tachograph rules for the civil engineering sector.
Two separate cases have restricted the scope of one of the exemptions. In the first one, the European Court was asked to consider whether a vehicle in Estonia, which was transporting gravel from its loading site to a road maintenance site could be classed as a “vehicle used in connection with road maintenance” and hence fall within the derogation. The court said that to qualify for the exemption, the vehicle concerned must be used directly to spread the gravel on the damaged section of the road; mere transporting of gravel intended for use in road maintenance works would not be covered by the exemption.
In the second case, the Department of Transport has issued an advice note on interpretation of the exemption for “vehicles used in connection with sewerage, flood protection, water, gas and electricity maintenance services”. The inclusion of the word “maintenance” is important and it is the “maintenance” element of the service which gives rise to the derogation. The Department of Transport has concluded that for vehicles to qualify, they must be directly involved in maintenance work, which is limited to replacing or repairing part of the existing infrastructure.
In both these cases, it is the nature of the service with which the vehicle is used that is important and a common factor is that the services are performed in the public interest. Both the Department of Transport and the European Court are keen not to extend the scope of the derogation. These two cases are just the latest in a long line of legal challenges to various derogations from the drivers’ hours rules. They provide some clarity and so it is likely that the rules will now be more vigorously enforced by the prosecution section of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. If you feel that your type of business falls within the derogation, it would be advisable to seek specific legal advice. Failure to install and use a tachograph can result in a substantial fine and ultimately being called before the Traffic Commissioner for a public inquiry to consider the continuation of the operator’s licence.
If you need any help with interpreting the derogation, please contact me on 01756 790631