As a growing problem within the industry, we look to explore, investigate and address the current concerns regarding the tampering of tachographs. Having been an integral part of the HGV mechanic structure since 1985 and present in over six million buses, coaches and lorries, a tachograph almost acts as a fellow passenger – although perhaps a little less talkative. The device is able to record and store the speed, distance, motion and rest periods of a vehicle so that companies can ensure that their drivers are working the legal hours only, and not overtime.
Whilst at Barnes we can appreciate that some employees in alternative industries may seek and be allowed to work increased hours, we also understand the necessity that HGV drivers only work the hours that the EU allows – for the benefit and interest of other road users. One must always remember that the road is accessible to all drivers at all times, and that our own driving can directly impact others. In the coming paragraphs, we shall discuss the shocking, recent statistics surrounding tachograph tampering, whilst also considering why drivers may want to manipulate the technology, and what we can do to tackle this issue in order to keep all drivers safe.
In the EU, the rules state that drivers cannot drive more than nine hours a day, although this can be extended to ten hours twice a week, as long as it does not exceed the fifty six weekly limit or the ninety hour two weekly limit. In addition to this, drivers are required to take specific breaks – at least eleven hours every day, with a potential reduction of nine hours three times between any two weekly rest periods. Furthermore, for every four hours and thirty minutes of driving time, drivers must take a break of at least forty five minutes.
With set rules in place protecting both the HGV driver and other road users, some may question what the problem is. The problem lies in that much tachograph tampering is being done in a bid to reduce the recording of road time hours, with vehicle operators driving for much longer than legally acceptable. After a year of roadside checks, during which 23,000 vehicles were stopped, in September of this year, Britain’s main road regulator concluded that over four hundred lorries had crossed the border into the UK with a tampered tachograph. This reports as a 21% increase on the previous year. Whilst these figures are shockingly high, they are estimated to be realistically and significantly higher, with the DVSA approximating that there are another 400 vehicles with manipulated tachographs on the road each day.
Alarmingly still, these manipulations can be easily done by drivers themselves, using basic materials that interfere with the tachograph signals, which results in the technology incorrectly reading that the vehicle is stationary when it is in fact travelling.
Such facts present an additional question; why would drivers tamper with their tachographs, as it surely extends their working day? Leading industry bodies are concerned that drivers main motivations are strict delivery deadlines, and the prospect of finishing their shift earlier through skipping break periods.
Naturally, the issues which encourage tampering need to be addressed immediately, as they pose threats to other road users; consider the dangers of an over-tired driver operating a forty four tonne vehicle. Largely, the first steps to resolving these issues are, in our opinion, to talk to the drivers (including the many who have not tampered with tachographs), in order to discover how they feel about their shifts, the duration and the pressure they feel regarding deadlines. As any logistical and freight company knows, the mental health of their drivers is of paramount importance, and if areas where they are struggling have been identified, they need to be resolved imperatively.
Here at Barnes, our open-door policy has proven effective in allowing our employees to discuss how they feel about the above issues. Our flexible working hours have catered to many driver’s needs; the freedom of unrestricting hours eliminates the risk of drivers tampering with tachographs and provides a sense of appreciation for their lives beyond the working environment. However, there is still a growing problem within the industry, but with the help of every expert within the industry, we are confident that this problem can be tackled head on.