Tachograph offences – what constitutes driving?

A recent court case has clarified the position about what a driver needs to record on his tachograph to avoid tachograph offences.

Drivers are often confused about what the position is if they go out to take over a vehicle, fitted with a tachograph, which is not based at their operating centre. In 2001, in a case involving a British firm, the European Court held that time spent by a driver to reach the place where he took over a vehicle that was fitted with a tachograph would have a bearing on the driver’s state of tiredness and so should be recorded as other work. In the past few years, VOSA have become more vigorous in prosecuting drivers who fall foul of the rule.

A Dutch firm has recently asked the European Court to give clarification on this ruling and in particular, what is meant by the term “operating centre” and whether or not it makes any difference whether the driver drives himself to the place where he takes over the vehicle or is driven there by someone else.

The Court ruled that an operating centre is the place at which the driver is based, the place to which he is usually attached, from which he carries out his service and to which he returns at the end of that service in the normal exercise of his duties, without specific instructions from his employer. The court then went on to rule that it makes no difference whether a driver drives himself to a place to take over a vehicle or is driven there by someone else. The purpose of the drivers’ hours and tachograph rules are to ensure that drivers are not over tired. Tiredness can be affected by factors such as the journey’s duration and the state of the roads and so equally affect someone whether they are a driver or a passenger.

The law involving tachographs and drivers’ hours is complicated and not always easy for drivers to understand. If you are facing a prosecution by VOSA, you should be aware that there can be severe consequences; the fines imposed by the courts are high and in some cases you could be facing a potential custodial sentence. Magistrates are not always familiar with the rules and sometimes find them equally confusing. You need to be able to explain clearly any mitigating factors and should consider being represented by a transport solicitor, particularly given that there is a knock on effect that you may also be called before the Traffic Commissioner to consider your vocational driving entitlement, or in the case of your employer, his operator’s licence.

Should you require any help with a tachograph prosecution, please don’t hesitate to contact me on 01756 790 631. If you feel that you or your drivers could benefit from a refresher course, I am also available to provide in house training on drivers’ hours and tachograph rules.

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