5 Ways for Directors and Transport Managers to Stay out of Prison
One of the less obvious perks of being involved in the Transport Industry is quite how easy it is to find yourself in a criminal dock facing charges that could alter your life forever. It is often the case that the director or transport manager was oblivious of the cause of their arrest until the cuffs are on. Not knowing what your trucks and drivers are up to will rarely provide a defence when you should have known! Here are 5 suggestions that might prevent you from sharing a cell with a bucket and a special friend.
- Get an Audit
It is very easy to be blinkered to compliance when you are busy running a business. You may think that all is well when the waters are smooth but it takes very little to expose serious shortcomings in a business. We have had operators who have been completely unaware that: their drivers have been pulling their cards; their maintenance providers have been skimping on their duties or that their wheels have needed retorquing until the police or the DVSA come into their yards with bad news and a series of difficult questions.
A snapshot of your business once a year will allow you to spot what you have missed and fix it before it causes you harm – a recent positive audit from a reputable auditor is a wonderful document to have in your back pocket when the police suggest that a fatality might be as a result of your negligence
- Check your PMI sheet before you send your truck out.
You should always check your PMI sheet before you let your truck on the road. You need to be sure that no safety related defects have been found and the maintenance provider has signed your vehicle off as being in a roadworthy condition. That signature may well be your “get out of jail free” card. When your truck kills someone through a mechanical defect you should be able to say, “I am not a qualified engineer. My duty is to have my truck inspected by someone who is – and that person has declared it to be roadworthy!” Depending on all other factors (driver walkarounds, gate checks etc) this will go a long way to show that you have not been negligent.
- Keep a retorquing register.
Make sure that you know when your trucks’ wheels have come off and that they have been properly retorqued with a properly calibrated torque wrench by someone who knows how to use it. A wheel loss is extremely dangerous and even if you don’t kill someone with it you will find yourself in front of the Traffic Commissioner for a “Most Serious Infringement” which is not as much fun as it sounds.
- Gate check your drivers.
We all know that the walkaround check is the last line of defence before your truck leaves the yard but we also know that some drivers are not as thorough as they should be. It is tempting at 5.00 on a winter’s morning in the pouring rain to tick the boxes in your cab rather than take a torch around your truck. You need to send a message that you take your gate checks seriously and expect them to be done properly. Keep a record of the gate checks and any consequences thereof – if you find your drivers falling short then train them and if they still fall short discipline them. Prohibitions for mechanical failings affect your OCRS score and bring you to the notice of the Traffic Commissioner. A vigilant driver will often be what changes a calamity into an inconvenience.
- Keep on top of your drivers’ hours
It is easy to let this slip but you must be aware when your drivers are committing drivers’ hours offences. Once the rot sets in and drivers start committing drivers’ hours offences unchecked you and your business are in real trouble. At the worst end of the scale where one of your trucks kills someone and the driver has not taken appropriate break/rest then you could find yourself in real difficulties. We have represented operators in the Crown Court who were inferred to be conspiring with their card pulling drivers for their own profit. Running as your defence that you did not know something that you should have known is not attractive either to a Judge or a Jury and you face both prison and the loss of your business when convicted.
Smith Bowyer Clarke regularly represents Operators at Public Inquiries and in the criminal courts and has a wide experience in the use of, and access to, relevant auditors and experts. Call Smith Clarke now for a no-commitment free consultation.