Tachograph technology: Why operators should adopt a ‘compliance-first’ approach

Head of Marketing | Descartes Systems UK

With the DVSA having announced its intent to focus on the worst offending transport operators, there is a growing recognition that technology can help organisations demonstrate to the authorities that they are actively managing their compliance.

Caroline Hicks, DVSA Head of Enforcement has commented: “We want the cost of compliance to be relatively low, relatively steady and relatively known.  As soon as you choose to be non-compliant the costs will increase and they will keep increasing so that no business can afford to sit in that non-compliant area.”

DVSA commissioned research has identified six types of operator:
1. Exemplar
2. Compliant
3. Compliant with support
4. Potential rule breakers
5. Non-compliant
6. Seriously/serially non-compliant

Those operators categorised as Potential rule breakers downward are the ones that are much more likely to be targeted on the road.

The DVSA has announced an initial step towards this with the trial of ‘earned recognition’ for HGV fleet operators.  Under the trial, transport operators making their records available to DVSA to view online could gain recognition as a compliant operator so, removing the need for the DVSA to perform roadside checks on them.

The earned recognition system could reduce the burden on fleets freeing up the Agency’s time to tackle serious and serially non-compliant operators.

Tachograph analysis and compliance management technology can help operators demonstrate to the DVSA that they are proactively managing their drivers and transport operation and taking all reasonable steps to prevent infringements and breaches of complicated tachograph and drivers’ hours regulations.

Technology can also help reduce the cost for fleets and the impact of their business.  A national supermarket chain claimed that each roadside check cost its business more than £4,000 due to the just-in-time nature of their deliveries.

The key is to take a holistic, ‘compliance first’ approach.  From tracking driver hours to checking licences and ensuring pre-journey vehicle inspections are undertaken, embedding these processes within day-to-day operations makes these essential aspects of compliance business as usual.

For example, automatically and routinely checking a driver’s license – including points – against DVLA records, not only saves time but avoids the risk of out of date information from the now discarded paper license counterpart.  With up to date, accurate information, a company can rapidly assess the level of risk it is carrying based on overall driver endorsements and the potential impact on insurance.  Moreover, for those drivers with more points and therefore a greater risk profile, the company can instigate more frequent checks, ensuring compliance is maintained at all times.

In addition, DVSA estimates that 85 per cent of roadworthiness infringements could have been avoided if the driver undertook an effective walk-around vehicle check before starting the journey*.  And while it can be hard to ensure these checks are undertaken, companies can remove the risk associated with management by trust by using an App to record a driver’s pre-journey inspection of tyres, windscreen wipers, lights and so on.

Of course the biggest issue is tracking and managing driver hours.  And with the shortage in HGV drivers, the opportunities for individuals to work longer continue to grow.  Drivers may face pressure from some firms to work extra hours; while some drivers may decide to take that risk themselves.  Either way, the potential business impact is huge.  Companies need to not only enforce the limit but also ensure that measurement is done accurately and effectively, creating an audit proof record for the DVSA and gaining that ‘earned recognition’.

Finally, by ensuring that compliance is ‘baked in’, it is far easier for organisations to optimise journeys and meet customer demands.  Dynamic appointments can be offered, reservations met and the entire customer experience enhanced with no fear of accidentally pushing the limits - and paying the price.

*DVSA Effectiveness report, 2012 – 2013: http://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/2014/7/18/dvsa-no-government-licensing-regime-for-vans/53032/