Making operators absolutely liable for all offences committed by their drivers is unacceptable and unworkable, the Freight Transport Association has told the Department for Transport. These strong views have emerged from the 12 regional councils of FTA which have recently been considering the Department for Transport’s consultation on the introduction of amended EU drivers’ hours rules from 11 April.
One of the new provisions concerns the liability of operators for infringements committed by drivers. The current arrangements allow for a reasoned defence to be entered. However, the new wording is being interpreted in such a way that operators will effectively assume absolute liability for all offences committed by their drivers. This is simply unacceptable, for three reasons. First it is an unnecessary gold-plating of the regulations’ wording and contravenes the Department for Transport’s recent promise to relieve the industry of unnecessary regulatory burdens. Second, the current provisions have worked satisfactorily for all parties and do not require amendment to achieve acceptable levels of accountability and safety; and third the extension of liability in this way fights natural justice and invites challenge under human rights and similar legislation.
FTA Chief Executive Richard Turner said, ‘I have never seen my members so angry about a rule which will make them liable for everything their drivers do, leaving them to collect evidence for a defence. This is an unacceptable recipe for litigation and lawyers’ pension schemes. What we want is that the operator remains innocent until it is proved that they do not have the relevant systems in place.’