The Senior Traffic Commissioner has recently launched a consultation on changes to how Traffic Commissioners will conduct driver conduct hearings. The proposals confirm the seriousness with which Traffic Commissioners consider the behaviour and conduct of professional drivers; any driver called to a driver conduct hearing should also consider it a serious matter.
Firstly, the Senior Traffic Commissioner is proposing tightening the guidance so that if a driver fails to attend, without giving prior notice, the case may proceed to be dealt with in his absence. Even in cases where the driver has asked for an adjournment, the case may proceed in his absence if it is considered that the driver presents a significant risk to road safety.
The proposed new guidance emphasises that it is important that drivers clearly understand what is happening in the proceedings and that drivers are given the opportunity to fully present their case and present any mitigation which they wish to make.
The proposed amendments specifically make reference to drivers now being called to driver conduct hearings for instances relating to overloading and the maintenance of vehicles. Drivers who fail to undertake an effective walk round check and where the vehicle subsequently received an S marked prohibition for some defect which would have been obvious to the driver, can now, under these new proposals, expect to be called to a driver conduct hearing and for their licence to be suspended. Abusive or threatening behaviour towards DVSA staff, is conduct unbecoming of a professional driver and under the proposals, is brought into scope for significant action to be taken against the driver.
The Traffic Commissioners are aware that there is currently the potential for employers to be unaware of action which has been taken against their drivers at a driver conduct hearing and so are seeking the industry’s view on whether it would be beneficial to publish notice of forthcoming driver conduct hearings and the decisions.
The proposed amendments follow an ongoing trend of tightening the regulation of professional drivers. Drivers who fail to recognise the significance of being called to a driver conduct hearing, do so at their peril.