Andrew Fletcher is Senior Divisional Manager at Encore Personnel and heads up the recruitment firm’s specialist Driving Division, that places over 350 drivers a week for over 100 different clients based across the UK. Encore is an accredited member of the Freight Transport Association (FTA).
News that a cross party group of MPs is considering proposals that would ban all handsfree calls whilst driving has been met with real concern by the haulage industry and by agency drivers.
Of course, it is wholly accepted that anything that could distract a driver from concentrating on the road ahead, and causing incident as a result, deserves investigation and action taken if required. However, it surely also has to be accepted that those that drive for a living, and have pursued the qualifications to do so, are also professional in their attitude to driving and manage potential distractions accordingly.
Mobile phones have modernised and changed the haulage industry significantly over the past 15 years. Their wide availability and affordability, and the introduction of new technology including Bluetooth, headsets and speakerphones, have allowed drivers to be contactable while driving to discuss hours, rotas and important changes to routing information. Most take the view that responsible hands-free calling is safe and vital to their day to day operations.
However, the industry will always take seriously efforts to make our roads safer for all users, adapting to embrace new processes and adopting new technology as it becomes available.
At Encore, we are starting now to look at what alternatives we could look at to keep in contact with drivers about new opportunities without creating any unwelcome downtime.
Clients that employ drivers, we know are considering rules for drivers to minimise mobile use – such as asking drivers to check in when arriving at their destination and again, before they leave.
The government can also play its part in extending new legislation. In June, new regulations came into effect for new smart tachographs to be fitted to all large goods vehicles in the UK. These have a Global Navigation Satellite System module which automatically records vehicle location, as well as updates every three hours of driving, allowing Government agencies to monitor passing vehicles and look for signs of possible fraudulent activity.
Information from those Smart tachographs could be extended to allow the Operators to share details of drivers with them, such as distance travelled, location and timing, information usually collected through a phone call to the driver. Businesses could pay a small fee to access the tachograph and its tracking data from its host – a small price to pay to adhere to new legislation and improve the safety of its driver. We also wonder if this could be utilised to replace Operators vehicle trackers, further saving them time and money when adding new HGV vehicles to their fleet.
It offers a fantastic opportunity for hauliers and Government to work together to support the industry whilst investigating further the need to curtail use of mobile phones by all drivers.