Haulier daily walkaround checks may seem a mundane task, but they’re essential for compliance and safety

Drivers not doing them? We look at the prohibitions and fines affecting hauliers

hgv driving on a road

According to recent research, fines incurred by fleet drivers over the past year reached over £15 million for parking and driving offences. Although within fleets these tend to be picked up by the drivers and not the company, we look at some of the fines you could be liable for – and tips to prevent them, in particular daily walkaround checks.

Operating a goods vehicle of over 3.5 tonnes requires an Operator’s Licence, better known as an ‘O’ Licence in the industry. There are three different types of licences – a standard national licence, standard international licence and a restricted licence.

The importance of walkaround checks

It’s estimated that 85% of roadworthiness infringements could be avoided if a driver does a walkaround check before starting a journey.  Daily walk round checks need to be a part of a vehicle’s routine maintenance checks and need to be documented for compliance purposes. These can be paper-based or digital.

The purpose of the checks is, in effect, a defect reporting mechanism to prevent unsafe vehicles going out on the road.

daily walkaround checks on a diagram with an hgv

Daily walkaround checks are an important part of a vehicle’s maintenance programme. Any areas of concerns are noted, allowing the workshop to rectify them quickly and avoid unnecessary downtime or even an offence, leading to a fine and possible prosecution.

How do you make sure that drivers carry out daily walkaround checks?

Traditional paper-based forms can be exploited by drivers. There’s a temptation to fill out a form later in the day, rather than at the start of a journey. Who will know? This poses a huge risk to fleet managers should a lorry be pulled over for a spot check and a fault is found that can then lead to an offence.

Technology can be a great help in supporting such checks, particularly when using apps via a smartphone or tablet such as FleetWave Forms. Walkaround checks can be completed via the app and the results transmitted in real time to a fleet management system, evidencing that they were completed before a vehicle embarks on a journey.  This then helps remove the temptation for drivers to complete the checks later in the day or even at the end of a week for drivers that are ‘tramping’.

Fines incurred due to exceeding driving hours

EU rules on driving hours stipulate that you must not drive more than nine hours in a day – this can be extended to 10 hours twice a week.

By law, commercial drivers must take rest breaks every 4.5 hrs and for a minimum of 45 mins. Exceeding this time by even less than an hour can lead to a £100 fine which rises to £300 for 2 hrs additional driving time.

And there’s absolutely no excuse for breaking these rules other than in exceptional circumstances!

Tachographs, which must be fitted to all vehicles in excess of 3.5 tonnes will record:

how many hours have been driven
breaks and rest periods
speed of the vehicle
distance travelled by the vehicle

There has been a noted rise in lorry tachograph tampering on the UK roads recently and such offences can carry custodial sentences. Drivers need to set their tachographs correctly to ensure that they record the relevant activity and that rest breaks are fully adhered to. And by law, tachograph readings must be kept for a minimum of two years – any less than this and fleets could face fines of up to £5,000!

DVSA roadside vehicle checks

Lorry and bus drivers can be asked to stop for roadside checks by both the police and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Authority (DVSA). These are to ensure that both vehicles and their drivers are operating within regulations and are safe to be on the roads.

These checks will include:

 Roadworthiness of vehicles
Tachograph records
Safety of the load
 Weight of the vehicle

Fines will be incurred and there’s even the risk of vehicles being impounded if serious offences are found.

Fixed penalty notices can also be issued if a driver is caught with a vehicle that is overweight. The fines increase against the percentage that a vehicle is overladen. As an example, a vehicle that is over 15% overweight will incur a £300 fine.

Operator compliance risk scores

What happens if an operator repeat offends? The DVSA uses a scoring system to help them determine which fleets are a higher risk on the roads. This is known as the Operator Compliance Risk Score (OCRS). If your OCRS is high, then so too are the chances of your vehicles being pulled over for checks.

These scores are based over a three-year rolling period and there are two areas that are looked at to calculate the score – roadworthiness and traffic offences, which create a combined score. These scores are applicable across the entire fleet and not on individual drivers.

Scores are then used to determine which band you fall into – like a traffic light system – red, amber or green. It goes without saying, if you fall in the red band the chances of you being pulled over for checks increases.  The OCRS’ are weighted too. This means that your base score changes as points move from year 1 through to year 3.

Improving your OCRS means that you need to ensure that vehicles are fully maintained and roadworthy, weights and loads are correct for the vehicle and drivers are being compliant. The DVSA recently launched the Earned Recognition Scheme, with Operators enrolled on the scheme providing full transparency of the necessary supporting documents. These Operators are less likely to have their vehicles pulled over for roadside checks as the DVSA know that these vehicles meet compliance requirements.

What happens if you break the terms of your O Licence?

Quite simply, your O Licence can be revoked! This decision will be made following a public inquiry with the Traffic Commissioner.

The role of fleet management software 

Vehicle information, maintenance records and driver behaviour can all be monitored through fleet management software such as FleetWave. It manages every aspect of a fleet and can help keep vehicles roadworthy and reduce downtime by automatically managing work completed defects from field-based fleet inspections. In addition, tools such as The Workshop Hub help workshop technicians report and manage their own workloads to improve efficiency.

Driver management software improves the visibility of your driver data, supporting duty of care and allowing the analysis of risk. Regulations can be adhered to which can help avoid penalties and support compliance. This in turn can manage appeals, avoid escalation charges and identify fine hotspots.