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Ask the MAC – September 2023

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Every month we get a variety of questions and every month our intrepid Member Advice Centre has the answers.


Q. We have recently transferred some vehicles and trailers between our operator licences, which leaves us with no vehicles left on one of the licences. We may, in the future, re-commence operations there but have no immediate plans. 

Does this mean that we must surrender the operator licence as we have no vehicles associated with it? And, if we re-commence operations will we need to re-apply? 

A. You may not necessarily need to suspend your operator licence with no vehicles on, as the holder of an operator’s licence must have ‘access’ to a vehicle. This means that the holder either owns at least one vehicle or has in place a formal contract with a hire company, other operator, or other organisation to hire one when needed. 

Statutory Document No.4 from the Senior Traffic Commissioner states: 

The requirement is that once an authorisation has been granted, the operator must have access to one or more vehicles. This is different from having vehicles specified on a licence but the vehicle(s) in question must be registered and be capable of being put into circulation in conformity with the legislation of that Member State. 



Q. One of our drivers was caught wearing a three-point seatbelt under their armpit by the depot manager. Is this an offence? 

A. Regulation 47 of the Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986 defines a three-point belt as a seat belt which ‘restrains the upper and lower parts of the torso’. The seat belt should therefore be worn in accordance with these Regulations. Wearing a three-point belt under the armpit would be viewed as an offence as the upper part of the torso would not be restrained.  



Q) Can my drivers sign to opt out of the Road Transport Directive (RTD) rules on an individual basis? 

A) No. Unlike the Main Directive, which was introduced to other sectors in 1998, there is no allowance for individuals to opt out of the Road Transport Directive. 

However, there are some flexibilities contained in the rules. Workers and employers can agree to remove the 10-hour night work limit, extend the reference period for calculating the 48-hour average week up to 26 weeks, and to fix the reference period by calendar to suit the individual needs of the business. 

Agreements must be made by either a ‘collective agreement’ between the employer and an independent trade union, or by ‘workforce agreement’ with elected representatives of the workforce. If a worker has their conditions determined by a collective agreement, they cannot be subject to a workforce agreement. A workforce agreement can apply to the whole workforce or to a group of workers, and there are rules set down that tell you how to set up this type of agreement. 



Q) Can we use the digital tachograph to find out the speed of the vehicle at the time of an alleged speeding offence? 

A) Only if detailed speed data is downloaded before 24 hours’ worth of driving has been carried out on the vehicle. Detailed speed data will only be stored on the VU memory for around the last 24 hours that the vehicle has been moving. After this time the detailed data will be overwritten and lost.  

The VU retains information on over-speeding events, which are where the vehicle has been driven over the speed limiter (rather than road speed) limit. 

With digital tachographs, the information available to companies on speed is generally less accessible than on an analogue tachograph. However, it should be remembered that the tachograph is intended to be used to indicate where there is a potential problem with 

the function of the vehicle’s speed limiter, rather than identify road speeding offences.     



Q) A driver left his digital card in the tachograph unit when the vehicle that he was driving had broken down. The breakdown company has informed the driver that they would not be able to get access to the vehicle to remove his card until the vehicle is back at the workshops. However, we would like the driver to drive the next morning and wanted to double-check whether he is able to drive on print-outs? 

A) Unfortunately, the driver is not permitted to continue to drive using manual records whilst their digital card is awaiting removal from the tachograph unit. Manual records are only permitted when the card is lost, stolen or malfunctioning and has been reported to the DVLA. If a tachograph engineer determines that the digital card has been damaged whilst removing it from tachograph unit, then the driver is permitted to carry on driving whilst using manual records for up to 15 calendar days. 



Q) When a road changes speed limit from 60pmh to 40mph, is there a grace period at all after the 40mph sign to decelerate to that speed. Vice versa, too: if they are driving on a 40mph road heading towards a 60mph section is there any grace period to start accelerating before you pass the 60mph road sign? 

A) There is no grace period for accelerating or decelerating up to or past a speed limit sign. The vehicle must not be travelling faster than the posted speed limit and again when moving from a slower limit to a faster limit then the acceleration must be done in the higher speed limit zone.  


Q: We’re looking to start running vehicles into Europe for the first time and need some clarity around the rules. The vehicles would originate in GB before running into Europe to deliver. The vehicles are 3.5t commercial vans and will not be towing trailers.  

While in GB, we know the driver would operate under the domestic driving laws. What would be the case when crossing into the EU?  

A: In May 2022, the rules changed surrounding vehicles with a MAM between 2.5t and 3.5t, transporting goods for hire and reward into Europe, meaning that they must be on the Operator’s Licence. One of the important documents to carry to evidence this will be the UK Licence for the Community, which must be carried within the vehicles. 

When it comes to driver hours, the GB domestic rules apply only in GB, but drivers must observe the national rules of the countries in which they travel. For example, German national rules require drivers of goods vehicles between 2.8 and 3.5 tonnes to record details of their journeys in an AETR-style logbook. This means that UK drivers must use the logbook when they set out and while driving through the countries on journeys to or through Germany. 



Q: We have goods vehicles that switch between carrying dangerous goods and non-hazardous products, depending on the job they are doing. Is it necessary for the vehicle to carry a fire extinguisher at all times, regardless of the type of product being moved? 

A: Within the UK, there are no requirements to carry a fire extinguisher in a goods vehicle unless carrying goods under the ADR regulations. However, a risk assessment of the type of work carried out may highlight the requirement to carry a fire extinguisher.  

Published On: 07/09/2023 10:22:49


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