The traffic commissioner for the West Midlands and Wales has announced he plans to do more about drivers and mobile phone use, by issuing a code of conduct to cover their use in trucks and buses.
Traffic Commissioner Nick Jones told the Freight Transport Association’s Transport Manager’s conference of his plans following the reveal of new penalty rules for the offence of using a handheld phone whilst driving. Offending car drivers will receive six points on their licences and will face a fine of £200, with newly qualified drivers forced to retake their tests following their first offence.
Drivers with more years experience will potentially face a court appearance following a second offence, with fines of up to £1,000 and a six month driving ban as a minimum. The current punishment for this offence is £100 and three points. It is expected that the tougher penalties will come into effect in the first half of 2017.
LGV and PCV drivers who are caught using their mobile devices behind the wheel currently risk a professional conduct hearting before a TC after their conviction.
Nick Jones commented: “Mobiles distract drivers and are becoming an increasingly frequent factor in cases of causing death by dangerous driving. I have to deal with cases where professional drivers are leaving prison and want to resume professional driving. The reason they were sent to prison is they killed someone because they were texting while driving.”
He continued: “Mobile phone use while driving is part of the culture in white van man world. And to managers here today, yes, I’ve got a concern if you ring drivers and expect them to answer the phone while they are driving.”
During his talk, Jones explained that drivers before him on conduct cases for use of their mobile phones whilst driving are asked if they were expected to take calls from their employer whilst behind the wheel. In these instances, Jones states he would take proportionate, but firm action against these employers.
When asked by publication, Transport Operator, about his thoughts on the use of hands-free devices in trucks, he responded: “If Parliament has said that it is legal to use a hands-free phone, then it’s not for me to stop it. However, if you are an employer, my advice is don’t do it!”
Jones’ advice contradicts the beliefs of the Road Haulage Association, which believes hand-free phones are in a different category to handheld devices, and supports the limited use of them by drivers.