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Driver shortage is no excuse for safety failings warn Traffic Commissioners

17 Sep 2021

The traffic commissioners (TCs) warned operators in their joint report in the 2020/21 annual report,  of the importance of maintaining standards and not let them slip because of the current difficulty of replacing drivers.  The TCs also reminded operators and those offering traction services of their responsibility for the condition of third-party trailers hauled by their trucks.

The TCs warned: “The current driver demographic presents a real risk and operators and transport managers may be tempted to engage drivers who fail to live up to even the basic standards.

“The obvious risk is that operators may be tempted to retain drivers even after retraining and disciplinary processes have failed to import the standards expected of a professional driver.”

While the industry needed new drivers, the TCs stressed that they should be: “mentored by competent and experienced drivers who can act as exemplars.”

“It must be understood that whatever the commercial expediency, safety standards must be retained and that the ability to manage an operator’s licence will be put in jeopardy, if they fail to ensure compliance from their drivers.”

Circumstances last year meant that operators had been encouraged to develop the skills needed to manage risk in their own businesses.

“Operators who find deficiencies in their operations need to draw on good practice and change their control procedures, before they attract regulatory action,” the report advised.

It emphasised the importance of driver defect reporting “as a daily exercise”.

“A competent driver will ensure that defects are detected before the vehicle and trailer go into service, but driver defect reporting is more than just a tick box in the morning,” said the TCs.

“Extra walk around checks might be necessary if a vehicle has been driven over difficult terrain or it is an older vehicle, for instance. If a risk becomes evident during operation, a driver should be trained to record his/her findings and to report the defect.”

TCs also urged employers to make sure they understood the tax status of anyone who drove for them, saying “The differences between self-employed drivers, what constitutes a self-employed driver, drivers engaged as a personal service company and drivers provided by agencies need to be fully understood, especially where they relate to HMRC and financial standing.

“There has been much guidance provided by the trade associations and the government and we would strongly suggest operators access these resources and seek appropriate advice where required.”

The TCs warned that “a concerning pattern has emerged where the maintenance of trailers has been at issue.”

“Even though for short-term use, the trailer owner is normally responsible for routine maintenance, including safety inspections, traffic commissioners stress that the operator must comply with the obligations of their operator’s licence, which extend to the trailer, whilst it is being used by them,”.

It suggested that trailer owners and truck operators should “work together to ensure the roadworthiness of the trailer.

“The operator should take a risk-based approach to ensure the trailer’s maintenance arrangements comply with their own schedule of maintenance and inspections, including regular brake-testing,” the TCs said.

source: Transport Operator