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Which laws and best practices does a transport manager need to know?

Trucks and their drivers have the potential to kill if they are not acting within the law, and it is largely a transport manager’s role to make sure that everything has been done to keep trucks and drivers legal and safe. Some of the key areas of law and best practices to be aware of are as follows:

Driving hours limits

One of the most common offences when it comes to commercial drivers relates to the number of hours that they work. There are strict laws in Great Britain that stipulate how long a driver can be behind the wheel for and how much of a break they need before returning to work. This is to prevent drivers from becoming tired whilst driving, as tiredness can lead to drowsiness and loss of concentration or loss of alertness. When this happens, a driver is likely no longer in full control of a vehicle, the consequences of which can be deadly.

Drivers of any goods vehicles weighing over 3.5 tonnes must not be behind the wheel for more than 9 hours in any given day, although this can be increased to 10 hours twice a week if consent is given by the driver.

This means that no more than 56 hours should be driven in a week, and in any consecutive 2-week period, no more than 90 driving hours can be logged. Drivers must also take at least 11 hours rest per day, which can be split into 2 periods, including a 45-minute rest period when they have been behind the wheel for 4.5 hours. All of this information should be recorded in a tachograph, which is located in the cab of a vehicle.

As a transport manager, you need to be aware of how long each of your drivers is on the road for and must ensure that they are taking the appropriate breaks. This will involve looking at routes and ensuring realistic deadlines have been set so that drivers do not feel under pressure to break the rules.

Safety features

There are a number of safety features that every lorry should have, which every driver should make use of. These include:

  • seatbelts, which should be worn at all times

  • a hands-free mobile phone set up, and

  • a range of warning sensors and alarms

These are all to ensure that everyone on the road is safe. Not using these features when necessary can constitute breaking the law and can lead to accidents as well as the imposition of penalty points and fines. As a transport manager, it is important that you make sure that every cab is fitted with the correct equipment and that this is properly checked and maintained.

Drivers’ licences

Many drivers on the roads are found to be driving without the correct licence or with one which has expired. When you recruit a new driver, it is up to you to ensure that they have all of the correct licences in place and to make a note of any expiry dates. When a licence is due to expire, you should contact the driver concerned and get a copy of the new one when it arrives. Without a proper and valid licence, you cannot allow them to drive for you.

Speeding laws

Speeding is often thought of as a fairly minor offence, but it can be extremely dangerous, especially in a truck. It is essential that you ensure that your drivers understand how important it is that they stick to speed limits. 

When planning routes, it is now possible to see the speed limits of roads, so you can plan effective journey times and ensure that your drivers are aware of any changes that might catch them unawares.

Restrictions for clean air zones

Clean air zones and ultra clean air zones are being set up in various cities across the country to try to reduce emissions in particular areas. This puts restrictions on vehicles of certain sizes, fuel types, and ages, so you need to be aware of how your vehicles fit into this. You should then help your drivers plan alternative routes where possible, organise relevant permits, or pay the penalties that are incurred.

Vehicle maintenance requirements

A lot of problems occur as a result of trucks not having been properly maintained. It is your job as a transport manager to ensure all vehicles are regularly inspected and, if they’re not up to standard, taken off the road until they are once more up to safe and legal standards.

Staying on top of changes

Understanding the rules when you first take on transport manager duties is one thing, but laws can change, and new restrictions or guidelines can be brought in at any time.

If you’re the transport manager of a business, it is important that you know what these changes are and understand all of the implications that they might have for your business. Some of these might be applicable across the country or they might only apply in certain areas, so you need to work out which drivers and routes are most likely to be affected by any given changes.

Once you have got to grips with a legal change, it is your job to make sure that any vehicle, rule, or process alterations that must be made to adhere to the change are implemented. This should start with a process of education and training to ensure that your drivers and anyone else within the business who might be affected are fully aware of the changes.

You may have to update paperwork, make changes to your vehicles, or budget for extra costs, to ensure that everyone in the fleet abides by the new rules as soon as they come into force. In the eyes of the law, ignorance is not a defence, so you need to keep yourself informed.

A transport manager’s role

Whilst you cannot control what a driver does behind the wheel, you can ensure that all necessary measures have been taken to keep your drivers and their vehicles safely within the law.

To learn more about keeping safe on the roads, read Rocket Lawyer’s guide on Road traffic offences. If you have any questions about legal issues related to trucks and transport, you can Ask a lawyer for assistance.

Andrea Easton
Andrea Easton
Head of Finance and Operations at Walker Movements

Andrea Easton is the Head of Finance and Operations of Walker Movements, who are specialists in quality second-hand, used trucks and trailers and are global leaders in the trucking industry.

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