18 February 2010

Landmark ruling for First

Having waded through some of the Public Inquiry findings by Scottish Transport Commissioner (TC) Joan Aitken, I can fully appreciate how laborious summarising these for the pages of the trade magazines can be. None more so than that which featured in the latest edition of CBW, which detailed how a landmark ruling had been placed on First Manchester by North Western TC Beverley Bell.

I'll try and condense matters further!

First Manchester was accused of permitting its driving an non-driving (though in possession of a PCV licence) staff of contravening the EC Drivers' Hours Regulations during the Farnborough Air Show of 14-20 July 2008. Specifically, the charge laid down was that those who volunteered were asked to take a day's holiday at the same time as they were voluntarily driving at the Air Show and that the voluntary work would be in addition to their rostered work, which, in the view of VOSA, saw many drivers contravene the EC Regs' minimum daily and weekly rest periods as many journeys conformed to these more stringent rules being, as they were, in excess of 50km in length.

First Manchester admirably admitted that some of its workforce had indeed contravened the EC Regs by failing to use a tachograph to record how their day was spent and that in some cases drivers hadn't observed the minimum required daily rest. They did not believe, however, that any driver had contravened the more lax Domestic Hours Regulation's weekly rest period of 24 hours continual rest within 16 days. While the driving an non-driving staff who'd volunteered all had a one-day rest period following the Air Show, the allegation was that since the work they'd undertaken at Farnborough saw many of these drivers work days in excess of 16 hours, this pushed their work into a second day, and where this second day was categorised as a rest day, it technically wasn't classified as such.

Pragmatically, Ms Bell chose to not linger on this issue as First Manchester had held its hands up, but to illustrate the need for a full review of the PCV driving legislation, instigated a new regime for all driving staff across the entirety of First in the UK. The imposition of Ms Bell's undertaking to First was seen as more effective in the long-term than forcing a reduction in its Manchester operation's O Licenses, as failure to adhere to the undertaking could see swift, effective action taken by TCs in the future.

First Manchester accordingly agreed to:
  1. Limit any vehicle movements in excess of 50km by third-party or non-regular driving staff and that proper records would be kept and retained in accordance with EC Regs.
  2. All drivers of all authorised vehicles affected by the EC Regs will receive a refresher course on the Regs by the end of May.
  3. No employee will undertake work conforming to EC Regs unless the meet both above criteria.
  4. Drivers whose work conforms to Domestic Regs (virtually all) will be given additional training on the rules by the end of March.
  5. A 'clear training and disciplinary procedure' needs to be drawn up for all drivers of authorised vehicles by the end of February and sent to the TC.
  6. All First Manchester's transport managers are to receive refresher training apropos their transport management duties by the end of May; a caveat was added here stating that the transport managers within the subsidiary would now hold the role of repute for the company.

The rest of First's empire in the UK agreed to be bound by the following undertaking:
  1. All drivers at all operating centres throughout Britain who work at any time to the EC Regs will receive refresher training on these Regs by the end of May and that they will only carry out such work after that date provided they've received the training.
  2. First's directors who hold O Licenses in Britain are now required to inform their TC that all drivers who work to the Domestic Regs (the vast majority) will receive a refresher course.
  3. The same directors are also required to present their TC with the date when a clear training and disciplinary procedure has been produced, detailing how this affects all drivers in all areas of their business.
  4. All transport managers for all First's subsidiaries will receive refresher courses for their management duties.
It was Ms Bell herself who referred to her ruling as a 'landmark' case. Clearly, she wants the industry as a whole to take note and act accordingly. She is seeking clarification on the law at the moment, opting to force her raft of measures on First Manchester as an interim measure.

It's a telling sign of how complex and obfuscatory the current legislation is, that a TC was unable to apply it to a specific case. Let's hope the legislation is made a little more under-friendly. To quote Ms Bell: "The law needs to be clear, the law needs to be easy to understand, the law needs to be easy to interpret and the law needs to be easy to enforce."

Currently, it struggles to be any of these.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

interesting a traffic commisioner admitting the law needs to be clearer more understandable and easy to enforce so that must be the reason most of her decisions are taken to the tribunal to clarify .another relevant point the traffic commision repeatedly tells us that their role is primarily to keep a level playing field in regards to competition ,thats the need for maintenance,drivers hours etc regulation .what real purpose does bringing a multi national operator to apublic enquiry to clarify something that isnt clear in other words vosa have found aloophole so firstbus should change the law for mrs bell .its nearly 12 months ago when one company in the northwest actually challenged the commisioner on the law and her decision was overturned the tribunal called it A LANDMARK CASE so its a damn shame firstbus go and assist even more crazy regulation AND GIVE MRS BELL ANOTHER BOOST OF POWER WELL DONE YOU WEAKEN THE HUMAN RACE .