Government announces £54m red tape cut

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DfT also announces the development of a guide on driver’s hours and working time rules, along with relaxed tachograph download regulations

The Government has claimed £54m is to be saved by cutting unnecessary red tape and has announced additional initiatives for professional drivers and operators.

Roads Minister Stephen Hammond said: “The work we have carried out to remove unnecessary paperwork has reaped real benefits for motorists and businesses.

“Some of these changes might seem very straightforward but they are helping to make life easier for millions of people.”

The £54m breaks down as:

  • 36 million vehicles will no longer need a paper tax disc, saving around £14m each year;
  • 33 million drivers will no longer need a paper counterpart to their driving licence, saving them an estimated £8m each year;
  • more than 17 million changes to address and vehicle details will be possible online;
  • 6 million people will not need to return an insurance certificate if a policy is cancelled mid-term, saving business £29m each year; and
  • 2 million fleet vehicles will no longer need a paper registration certificate, saving companies around £3m each year.

Two additional changes were also announced. A user-friendly guide for professional drivers will be developed to increase clarity and understanding on drivers’ hours and working time rules, particularly about when a driver needs to take a break. Ministers decided against lining up domestic and EU rules, which were viewed to be oppressive, and ruled out trying to get change through Brussels.

In a statement to its members, the CPT said: “CPT believes the Government was right to investigate this area, and welcomes the Minister’s decision. Drivers’ hours rules are complex and CPT looks forward to working with DfT on the revised guidance that will make the rules easier to understand. Whilst we welcome simplification in principle, we will fight to ensure that changes do not outweigh the benefits.”

The Fleet Transport Association (FTA) said it had been asked to ‘lead the way’ in preparing the new guidance.

James Firth, FTA Head of Road Freight and Enforcement Policy, said: “The FTA’s 125 year history of providing effective, reliable compliance information to the industry has been recognised.

“The FTA is not aware of any evidence to suggest that a driver who is compliant with European driving time rules remains a significant safety risk. It is the view of FTA members that the application of the Working Time Directive to the road transport sector remains the single most burdensome piece of administration applied to the industry today – but since it comes from Brussels, this Red Tape Challenge could do nothing about it. But this guidance will help operators and drivers cut through the complexities for now.”

In addition the frequency with which digital drivers’ hours records must be downloaded from tachographs will be relaxed, from every 56 to every 90 days, a change which benefits drivers on long international tours.

On the subject of the relaxed tachograph rules, James Backhouse, from Backhouse Jones solicitors, told CBW: “This is a relaxation of the time limit for VU downloads which means risk of a fine is not incurred until 90 days has passed.

“This in practice will have a minimal impact/benefit to the LGV or PSV industries as it is in operators’ own interest to regularly download the VU data to enable a prompt and complete and concurrent analysis of the vehicle and driver data. Apart from its diagnostic function, the VU data is most important to establish movements of the vehicle without a driver card inserted when one should have been used (unknown driver report).

“This is a significant risk in many operations, including coach tours or long distance haulage (where the vehicle is away from base overnight for one or more days or indeed some tipping/tanker or container operations). An operator is expected to manage this risk of serious offending i.e. the deliberate failure to keep a digital driver record.

“Our recommendation would be that this data should be obtained in the same cycle that routine driver analysis reporting is obtained in the operator’s organisation. Typically this would be monthly. This enables the complete tachograph and driver’s hours compliance check and the follow up with the drivers to be undertaken for Driver Card and VU data issues at the same time.

“In any event with the increased use of telematics, allowing a fairly seamless data transfer on a near real time basis (providing this includes the raw data required by the legislation), the time limit will become of little practical relevance.”

The CPT said: “While it will have little effect on the day-to-day operations of the coach industry, it will reduce the chances of operators incurring fines when something unusual happens.”

The Red Tape Challenge was launched in 2011 and has been applied to all areas of transport with the aim of reducing unnecessary bureaucracy for users of road transport and the rail, maritime and aviation services.