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May 24, 2010

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MEPs back action to harmonise fines for road-transport offenders

MEPs have adopted a resolution calling for efforts to harmonise the level of fines across EU countries in relation to lorry drivers who commit working time-related road safety infringements.

The resolution, drafted by Austrian Christian Democrat Hella Ranner, relates to truck drivers’ working-time rest periods, or working conditions, and criticises the wide disparities in fines for similar offences across the EU’s 27 Member States. Setting out a ‘wish list’ of demands, resolutions do not carry any weight in law but can give impetus to future European legislation.

Approved in the European Parliament on 18 May, the resolution calls on Member States to find “legislative and practical ways” to reduce the differences in the types and levels of penalties applied, and argues for minimum and maximum penalties to be laid down for each breach of the rules on working time.

Manipulation of a driver’s tachograph, for example, is penalised with a fine of up to €586 in Lithuania but €2460 in Poland. In other countries, the fine can be even higher for such an infringement – €4601 in Spain; up to €6232 in Italy; and up to €30,000 in France, with the additional possibility of a one-year jail sentence. In the UK, deliberate falsification of tachograph records can result in a £5000 fine, and a jail sentence under the more general conviction of fraud.

According to Ms Ranner, fines for exceeding the European legal daily driving limit by more than two hours are currently ten times higher in Spain (€4600) than in Greece (€400).

Ms Ranner said: “The penalty systems in the EU Member States have evolved historically and therefore show wide disparities, with fines in extreme cases that can be as much as ten times higher in one country than in another. These differences can be explained by economic and geographical factors, as well as the Member States’ differing policy approaches to road safety.”

The resolution also calls for more frequent checks by national authorities, both at the roadside and the road haulier’s premises, and suggests the European Commission create an “effective and appropriate coordination instrument at the European level” to help train and coordinate inspection bodies and gather statistical information.

It also states that the digital tachograph should be improved “as an instrument for checking”, and urges the Commission to investigate how relevant authorities can achieve faster downloading of data from the tachograph. Member States are also urged to ensure that the European road network has in place safe and appropriate parking facilities for drivers to rest.

Commenting on the MEPs’ backing of the resolution, Kevin Clinton, RoSPA’s head of road safety, said: “Lorry drivers work all across Europe, so it makes sense for regulations and enforcement to be as consistent as possible.”

However, the Department for Transport would not be drawn on the issue. A spokesperson told SHP: “We are in the very early stages of a new government and ministers will wish to consider the full range of transport policy.”

Earlier this year, Robert Taylor, director of haulage firm Translact Ltd, was found to have “condoned and connived” with drivers at the company to falsify their tachograph records, at a Public Inquiry relating to the deaths of two people in a road accident involving a Translact vehicle.

Translact, Taylor and his father, Christopher Rory Taylor, a director of Translact’s parent company Taymix Transport Ltd, were found guilty of charges under sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the HSWA, for which they were fined more than £50,000.

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Edward

Harmonisation of fines is an interesting concept, but a bit pointless unless/until there is more similarity in enforcement, and of course, pay and conditions. The maximum fine in the UK may appear to be lower than in France, but it is per offence, and it is not unusual for the Authorities to prosecute a driver or a company on multiple charges. That is not end of the matter either as in the UK drivers often get their LGV licences revoked for drivers hours offences and companies often get called to a public enquiry by the traffic commissioner where their Operator’s… Read more »