Traffic Commissioner for Wales and West Midlands, Nick Jones, spoke with the FTA during a transport manager’s meeting. He stated that he was going to do more about drivers using their mobile phones while driving causing added danger on the roads.
He plans to issue a code of conduct to cover the use of mobile phones or similar devices while driving vehicles such as HGVs and coaches.
The announcement came along with updated penalty rules for those drivers who will be caught using mobile devices while at the wheel. The new code of conduct will make drivers face potentially six points on their licence along with a £200 fine. All newly qualified drivers will be made to retake their tests if caught once.
The drivers with further experience may be taken to court on a second offence along with a fine of at least £1,000 and at least a six month ban from the road. This has been introduced as the current penalty (three points on licence and a £100 fine) has failed to decrease the amount of drivers who go on their mobile phone while driving.
The plans of the new penalty are set to be put into action in the first half of 2017.
Drivers caught using handheld devices as of today are met with a TC at a professional conduct hearing for their conviction. TC Jones told reports: “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.
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.”
He went on to say that drivers that face him on cases for using handheld devices while driving were often contacted by their transport management and expected to take calls from their offices while at the wheel to update them on their journey.
“I will take proportionate but firm action against the employer in those cases,” he warned.
Reporters asked his thoughts on hands-free devices and how this would have an impact on some cases.
“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!”
The RHA felt different about the matter, believing hands free devices are a completely different contrast to handheld devices and support driver’s limited use of devices while driving.
“Hands-free mobiles are used in lorries as a business tool, bringing economic and environmental benefits, including reducing the mileage travelled by vehicles through improving efficiency,” was the opinion of RHA chief executive Richard Burnett he shared with reports.
The association felt the increased penalties were a necessary precaution to ensure reduced accidents on the roads are caused by drivers using handheld phones and the use of hands-free devices could prove to be the solution drivers and their managers are looking for.
“As far as the road haulage sector is concerned, the RHA is urging employers and drivers to help to eradicate the practice from the industry once and for all,” Mr Burnett said.
“There is abundant evidence that use of handheld mobiles - as opposed to hands-free devices - is a major cause of road accidents. The two issues should not be confused. The use of handheld mobiles is the safety risk that has to be addressed, through much stronger deterrents.”