The DVLA has just issued a warning aimed at bus and lorry drivers who have accrued penalty points on their licences for mobile phone offences.
Mobile phone offences are frequently dealt with by way of fixed penalty offers (£100) and the endorsement of 3 penalty points. If the matter is prosecuted in court, then the court has the discretion to disqualify instead of imposing penalty points.
If HGV or PSV drivers acquire penalty points on their driving record for a mobile phone offence, the DVLA will issue a warning letter to those drivers. This will refer to the risk of mobile phone use and the fact that they may be required to attend a driver conduct hearing before a Traffic Commissioner. Further, the letter will warn the driver that a repeat offence will lead to an automatic referral to the Traffic Commissioner.
The net effect of this is that any vocational driver runs the risk of being summoned to a driver conduct hearing before the Traffic Commissioner for a mobile phone offence. Traffic Commissioners have powers to suspend or revoke Vocational Licences. Drivers already face such hearings where Traffic Commissioners discover such offences have been committed. In the ordinary course of events they face a brief loss of vocational licence.
The starting point for sanctions for mobile phone offences is a 14 day vocational licence suspension and 21 days if the offence took place when driving a commercial vehicle. The Traffic Commissioner may impose such a period immediately. Further, a second or further offence has a recommended suspension period of 42 days.
It should be remembered that at a driver conduct hearing the Traffic Commissioner is considering a driver’s fitness to be granted or retain their vocational driving entitlement. Unlike court hearings, personal mitigation is not taken into account. Therefore, the Traffic Commissioner will be scrutinising the drivers’ fitness to drive a HGV or PSV – not whether he or she would suffer financial loss through the licence entitlement being suspended.
Those who attended our Woodfines’ Road Transport Conference at the MK Dons Arena on 18th September will recall this topic being discussed. In short, Traffic Commissioners take a very serious view of mobile phone misuse and operators would be well advised to verbally warn their driving staff about this – in addition, driver handbooks and written instructions should contain information about this.
The use of a mobile phone where fatal or non-fatal accidents occur is regarded by the courts as a seriously aggravating feature. In fatal accidents or in accidents where serious injury is concerned, this factor may trigger a custodial sentence.
For further information or advice
Please contact Tim Ridyard on 01223 411421.