Tougher penalties for using a hand held mobile phone whilst driving came into force on 1 March 17, which could have a knock on effect on operators’ businesses. The number of penalty points have increased from 3 to 6 and the amount of the fixed penalty fine increased from £100 to £200.
A business invests time and money in its drivers. There are costs of recruiting the driver, the induction training, on- going training and the driver’s wages and other employer based contributions to benefits. A driver who has now been found to be committing an offence on 2 occasions will be facing disqualification. The business will need to find a replacement, unless the driver can argue mitigating circumstances for not being disqualified. How quickly will the business be able to find a replacement and at what cost?
I anticipate that the increase in penalties will lead to a revision of the Senior Traffic Commissioner’s statutory guidance for driver conduct hearings. Currently a driver who has been caught twice using a mobile phone, where the type of vehicle is not know, may be looking at a 6 week suspension. A driver who has committed a second offence using a mobile phone whilst driving a commercial vehicle may be facing a 16 week suspension. However, under the revised penalties, such drivers will, unless mitigating circumstances have been successfully argued, be facing in any event a 12 month disqualification. At the end of the disqualification period, the driver will have to apply for restoration of his LGV entitlement, which may not be granted for at least 6 months until after the end of the disqualification.
Operators need to bring home to drivers that use of a hand held mobile phone whilst driving, as well as being dangerous, can seriously affect their livelihoods and potential for future employment. It is not just their conduct at work, but any offences committed whilst driving their private car can affect their employment. Operators need to review their company policy on the use of mobiles and the training given to drivers. They also need to review policies for drivers advising of prosecutions and fixed penalty points. If you have drivers who are facing a disqualification or would like advice on company policy, please get in touch.