Last year over 440 lorries entered the UK with manipulated tachographs, the Driver Vehicle & Standards Agency (DVSA) has claimed.
A further 400 drivers were believed to be breaking the law, many potentially using ‘interrupters’ to switch off their devices.
By using interrupters, a driver can drive while appearing to be on a break. The equipment is notoriously complex. Usually, only those with technical expertise can install it. Combined with the fact that the kit is often found in several vehicles per fleet, this reinforces suspicions that fleet managers themselves are behind the manipulations.
The encouraging news is that UK-based fleets seem deterred by the penalties meted out for tacho tampering. However, the number of foreign operators running ‘on the wire’ across British highways is causing concern for enforcement agencies.
Earlier this year a Bulgarian driver was stopped on in North Wales. Because of his manipulated tachograph, he’d been able to drive for 23 hours non-stop.
Danger to UK Road Users
Devices that interfere with tachographs tend also to to interfere with the vehicle’s suspension, speedometer and brakes. Handled by an overtired driver, these wagons threaten carnage on UK roadways.
In Nottingham, police pulled over one Polish driver who’d driven all the way from Germany with a distorted tachograph. In 2017 alone, Nottinghamshire Police have arrested and charged 22 drivers for similar offences.
It is thought that extreme cost-cutting by foreign operators, resulting in low driver wages, is contributing to the rise in illegal interference.
Between April 2016 and March 2017, the DVSA carried out 223,000 roadside checks. The BBC report that during this period, there was a 21% increase in the number of drivers found with tampered tachographs, compared to the year before. Whether that increase is down to the heightened vigilance of the DVSA, or the increased desperation of overseas freight firms, is yet to be determined.
Because this total consists only of those drivers stopped by the DVSA, and not by other authorities, such as the police, the true figure is likely to be much higher.