Under their Road Transport Operator Licence (RTOL), operators have made the following undertakings to the Traffic Authority (among others):
- “The laws relating to the driving and operation of vehicles used under this licence are observed; and
- The rules on drivers’ hours and tachographs are observed, proper records are kept and that these are made available on request.”
As well as their obligations under operator licensing, operators also have legal obligations under legislation (see the Road Traffic Act 2002) to ensure that their drivers observe the law on drivers’ hours. Failure to do so leaves them exposed if infringements are discovered by an enforcement officer (ie the Garda and RSA officers). This can lead to criminal prosecutions against the operator as well as the driver.
While some driver infringements will not automatically result in action against the operator, such action could be taken if the operator has failed to make correct arrangements, eg:
- the operator designed a “run” for a driver in such a way that the only way to complete that job would have required excessive driving
- where an operator is shown to have failed to deal with regular infringements by a driver.
To ensure that the laws on drivers’ hours are being observed, operators must have a system in place that regularly scrutinises the tachograph records being kept by the drivers. This is applicable to both analogue and digital recording equipment.
Operators will not be held responsible for drivers’ hours’ offences committed by their drivers if they can show that at the time of the infringement the driver’s work was being organised in full consideration of the rules and in particular that:
- no payments were made that encouraged breaches
- work was properly organised
- the driver was properly instructed
- regular checks were made.
Some operators choose to analyse the tachographs in-house and others send these records to an external tachograph analysis bureau. Whichever method of analysis is being followed, operators should look to produce infringement reports and deal with these reports accordingly (see below under Dealing with infringements). Also, it is a good idea to regularly do audits of the system used to ensure that tachographs are being properly scrutinised and any issues are appropriately followed up with the driver in question.