Changes in Law 1st Quarter 2016 - 1st February 2016

You may recall in October 2014 it became no longer necessary to display a road fund licence (tax disc). Number plate recognition cameras were to take over the monitoring of vehicles and whether they are taxed, presumably seen as a better option due to a diminishing police presence. More than a year later, the road tax for all vehicles still on the road, and not SORN, would have become due and renewed, however, it is still worth reminding drivers not to overlook their road tax. A reminder letter should be sent at renewal time but without the memory jogger of the disc in the window, unless renewed as soon as the letter arrives, it could easily be forgotten, and as there is no grace period any longer for untaxed vehicles (you can’t claim it’s in the post!) you could be unfortunate enough to receive a fine immediately the tax date has passed. Likewise, it is also worth remembering that if you buy a new vehicle, the tax is not transferable and the vehicle must be taxed by the new owner before driving the vehicle away from the seller. A refund will be sent by DVLA to the seller for all full months remaining, after the date of sale. Road tax may be bought at a post office, by post, or online 24hours a day, therefore, there are no excuses for not having road tax. The simplest way to ensure it is not forgotten, if you think it may be, is to pay monthly by direct debit. The vehicle will continue to be taxed until you cancel the direct debit.

Do you smoke in your vehicle? If so, changes to the law were introduced, on 1 October 2015 specifically relating to smoking in a vehicle with children (under 18), and are not a straight forward yes or no. It may also be worth looking at the rules relating to smoking in a work vehicle as some time has passed since that law was introduced. First, the new law – smoking with children in the car. A private vehicle must now be smoke free if there is more than one person present and one of them is under 18. It is an offence for any person to smoke in a vehicle if there is someone under 18 years old present, and, it is an offence for a driver to let someone smoke in the vehicle, this includes a provisional licence holder who is driving the vehicle. There is a fixed penalty of £50 for each offence and a driver may be fined twice for committing both.

This new legislation only covers private vehicles, since work vehicles and public transport are already smoke free, and the vehicle has to be enclosed to be covered by the legislation. Therefore a convertible or coupe, with the roof up, is covered by the legislation, whereas with the roof fully down is not. A vehicle with a sunroof, open or shut, is covered by legislation, as is sitting in an open doorway of a vehicle.

Motorhomes, campervans and caravans are also covered by the legislation, however, only when being used as a vehicle. When being used as living space they are exempt.

Laws for smoking in a work vehicle were introduced in 2007 (2006 in Scotland) and essentially bans smoking in any work vehicle used by more than one person, regardless of whether all or none of the occupants smoke. Taxis, buses, vans, goods vehicles and company cars are covered. If a vehicle is only used by one driver and does not carry passengers it may be exempt, however, an employer may have a no smoking clause in their driving for work policy which will not allow employees to smoke in any vehicle used for business purposes.

It is the responsibility of all drivers to ensure they remain legally compliant on this and all other driving matters, whether driving for work or privately, therefore, you must understand the rules of the road before setting off on a journey. The laws in England and Wales are essentially the same , however there are differences in Scotland and Northern Ireland which must be observed. Fleetrisk24 Ltd would advise drivers and employers to keep their knowledge up to date, and would be happy to speak with you and your drivers on this subject. The consequences for a driver getting it wrong could also affect the employer who has a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of employees while driving for work. The maximum fine for an organisation, if an employee is caught smoking in a vehicle, is £2,500. The employer must take reasonable steps to ensure compliance including putting notices in vehicles and educating drivers. This, of course, may be an ongoing process as you employ new drivers. 

Finally, proposals due to be consulted on in 2016 could increase the penalty for a driver using their mobile phones while driving. Penalty points issued to car drivers could increase from three to four and the fine from £100 to £150. For HGV drivers penalty points will double from three to six, with the same fine. Laws regarding mobile phone use were introduced 12 years ago, and yet, drivers are regularly seen using a phone while driving. Many who use them probably take the risk thinking that the chances of getting caught are very low, and with a lack of police presence on the road, they are probably right. However, there are wider issues than being caught or fined, mainly that using a mobile phone is a huge distraction which could easily end in a serious crash, or killing someone. In 2014 the use of a mobile phone was attributed to being a factor in 21 fatal accidents and 84 serious accidents, the penalty for which could be imprisonment as well as having to live with the consequences. We would urge drivers not to use their phone while driving whether hand held, or hands free, as both are a distraction and neither will exempt you from the law. If it is deemed that a driver is distracted when using hands free they can still get a penalty.

Many issues that feature in our news section may be of concern to you as an employer if you employ company drivers. It is important that you, as a company, are fully compliant with your responsibilities to those employees.

Fleetrisk24 Ltd specialises in Work Related Road Safety and Workplace Transport Safety and can help you put policies and processes in place to address your transport health and safety requirements.

For information about how we can help, in conjunction with you, manage your at work drivers, either:
Speak with an advisor on 01732 864999 or, Email:

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