S P E C S Camera’s

S P E C S Camera’s

In case that you don’t know S.P.E.C.S is an abbreviation for ‘Speed Enforcement Camera System’ and are used to monitor the average speed of vehicles travelling on dual carriage ways and motorways in the UK and are often set up when there are long term road works in place and a temporary lower speed limit is in force, you may have seen them, they are normally on a high yellow gantry and have two cameras pointing at the road, they can monitor up to four lanes of traffic at once and have infra red illuminators so that they can work at night as well as in the day, they are spaced evenly throughout the site that they are placed in and are linked to a central computer and a group of cameras will cover any length of road that they are set up in.
Some driver’s think that they work like a GATSO camera and take a photograph if triggered by travelling past them too fast, so drivers slow down on the approach and then speed up again when they have past them, in fact it is this kind of driver that they are designed to catch as the S.P.E.C.S. will record your license plate with a digital time stamp as you pass by, it uses ANPR (automatic number plate recognition), and will do the same again when you pass by the next set, the computer will then work out your speed by measuring how long it has taken you to cover the distance between the cameras points and if you have been travelling too fast you will receive a PCN in the post.
As you can see it is pointless slowing down at the camera and then speeding up again as this will have no effect and you won’t even know if you have been caught breaking the speed limit as the camera does not flash, so you could be fined and gain penalty points on your driving license or face a ban quite easily and not know anything about it until the PCN lands on your doormat, so it is always best practice to observe the speed limit and if you have one fitted use your cruise control to help you to maintain a constant speed, in the case of an HGV driver your tachograph will also be used as evidence if you were to be prosecuted.
If you are observant you will notice that the cameras are positioned on each entry and exit point on the road and that they are spaced at regular points along the carriage way so it is impossible to avoid them, you will always pass by two camera sites from where ever you have joined the road and before you leave, so the best practice is to pay attention and observe the speed limit at all times as nobody wants points on their license or a fine to pay.

Digital Tachographs

Digital Tachographs

In 2006 digital tachographs were introduced making it easy for operators to keep track of their drivers, drivers hours, records and to identify drivers hours infringements, it is also harder for drivers to falsify records as each driver has to apply to the license authority (DVLA) for a digital driver card, this has a photo of the driver and other info on it rather like the photo card driving license and a smart chip that records all vehicle details and driver movements for up to 28 days, the card is inserted into a tachograph unit in the vehicle before driving begins and the driver enters some simple information about what he has been doing since his card was last removed, all information about the vehicle, its movements and driver activity is then stored on the cards microchip although the driver still has to manually change the mode switch except for driving, if the driver has switched to a rest period mode the tachograph will automatically go to drive mode when driving resumes and then it will change to other work mode automatically when the vehicle is stopped, the driver will have to manually change to rest periods and periods of availability, at the end of the drivers duty period the card is removed and kept by the driver at all times,  the information on the card  can then be downloaded in to a computer and analyzed for driving hours infringements instantly, eliminating the need for the tachographs to be sent away for analysis, all information is stored electronically saving storage space and paper. Although it is not required to be downloaded daily this can be done as the relevant info will stay with the driver on the smart chip after the download so the driver has with him at all times his last 28 days movements as required by law and also the employer can see all relevant information every time the card is downloaded into their computer system. The digital tachograph unit has a roll of paper inserted rather like a till roll so the driver or anyone wanting information can do a print out if required, the driver will have to do a print out  should his card be lost, stolen or malfunctions. If the card malfunctions it has to be sent back to the DVLA and the driver must apply for a new one but can carry on working for up to 15 days without one but he has to keep manual records by doing a print out at the start and end of shift and filling in all relevant information on the print out, these must be handed in within the relevant time scale, malfunctioning cards are replaced free of charge, if your card is lost or stolen then the replacement is charged for.

Analogue Tachgraphs

Analogue Tachgraphs

The analogue tachograph in commercial vehicles has been around since the late 1970’s and became mandatory in the EU since the middle eighties and was introduced to stop driver fatigue and improve road safety and replaced the log book. The first tachographs in HGV’s were analogue in the shape of a paper carbon disc that was marked by a stylus and was fitted usually behind a special speedometer of the vehicle that it was used in, the driver manually  filled out the center field of the disc with his details, details of the vehicle, his name, start place of duty i.e. town where driving started, date, mileage of vehicle and would fit it in the tachograph before driving started that day, the tachograph would then record all vehicle movements but the driver would have to remember to change the mode switch to correspond with the task that he was doing, i.e. if he was driving then he would select the drive mode, automatic mode switching was bought in later, although the driver still had to change the mode to rest, other work and periods of availability manually. The tachograph would record on the paper disc the distance covered, vehicle speed and hours worked and also start and finish duty times, the driver at the end of his working day would complete the center field with more details such as place of finishing work, end mileage and the date and he would then have to keep this disc on him for period of time currently 28 days before handing it in to his employer. A new disc would be required at the start of his next duty so the driver would have to ensure that he carried sufficient disc’s to complete his journey.

Falsifying records would be possible as the driver could fill in any information in the centre field of the disc, ie; he could insert a false name or other info either before he began his journey or after and he could leave the entire centre field blank till he had finished his journey only risking being caught if stopped by the ministry of transport or police on that particular journey, the driver could also deface or destroy any tachograph quite easily and claim that it was lost only risking a heavy fine if he was unable to produce the tachograph when required, if the required time scale had passed he could also claim that he had handed it in passing responsibility to his employer. His employer should check that all discs were handed back in at the required time scale but as you can see administering this would be time consuming for the employer if it was a large transport company with a large amount of drivers. If the tachograph unit malfunctioned the driver would then be required to manually draw his movements on the disc thus making it very easy to falsify his records.

To help combat falsifying records disc’s with serial numbers were introduced, requiring the driver to sign for them and these could be then checked when handed back in after use. Scrutinisation of the tachograph required specialised equipment and would generally mean that the tachographs would have to be sent away to a specialist analysing company that would provide detailed output of the information contained on the tachograph. It is law that the company had to keep records for at least twelve months so you can imagine the number of tachographs that had to be kept grew to an enormous amount, approximately two hundred per driver per year and these would need to be filed away neatly for inspection by the ministry of transport or anyone else.

Have you done your vehicle checks today?

Have you done your vehicle checks today?

A professional driver should carry out vehicle checks at least once a day as there is a great deal that can go wrong with an HGV and if not spotted can lead to all sorts of trouble both for the driver and the vehicle operator. On starting work and before any driving is done the driver should carry out a visual inspection of his vehicle and trailer even if it is the same vehicle that he drove yesterday as things can go wrong.

After inserting your tachograph, this should be done first to show that you have spent some time with your vehicle doing your checks and not got in it and driven off straight away, you should start by checking the engine oil level and water level, modern vehicle’s allow this to be done electronically on the dash board whilst sitting in the driver’s seat, still sitting in the driver’s seat look for the transport ministry plate and also check that the height meter is set correct and in view, also check mirrors for operation and cracks etc, once this is ok the engine should be started and all lights switched on including fog lamps, you should then dismount from the cab and carry out a visual check around the vehicle, if the vehicle is fitted with air suspension this should be raised at this point. Start at the front and inspect the offside front tyre for wear and any cuts etc, then move to the front of the cab and check all lights for operation, look at the windscreen for chips and cracks and check the road fund license is in date and that there is an operator’s license and that that is also in date, and check the front license plate for cleanliness and security, don’t forget also to inspect the wiper blades. Move round to the nearside looking at the nearside front tyre moving along check all suzy air and electrical lines for correct fitting and make sure that they are tangle free and not snagged up on the trailer. As you walk by the battery tray make sure that the lid is fitted properly and then move down to the rear wheels of the tractor unit and inspect both inner and outer tyres, remember that I mentioned earlier to raise that air suspension, this is to allow you to inspect the tread depth in both the tyres especially the inner one, it is also handy if you carry a tyre tread depth gauge in case you see a tyre that is looking worn you can measure it properly.

Moving along and remembering to check side lights as you go, look at the trailer landing legs and see if they are properly wound up, make sure that the feet mounts are not worn, and that the handle is stowed away. Walking along the trailer to the rear of the vehicle you should be checking all side lights for operation and also looking for the trailer plate and MOT disc this can be anywhere along the chassis so you may not find it yet, it is sometimes mounted on the front of the trailer so be sure to look there as well. When you have reached the rear wheels check the wheel nuts for tightness and presence and check tyre tread depth here also, all mudguards should be fitted and not loose and the spray suppressors should also be present, if these are missing you should not drive the vehicle and report it to your transport manager. If it is a curtain side type trailer check that all the buckles are done up properly and that there are no large rips or tears in the sheet. Around the back of the trailer check all lights and security of the number plate, get someone to depress the brake pedal to check brake lights, if no one available check by reflection, at this point open the trailer doors and check load for security and then move on to the offside rear trailer wheels and tyres and check these as described earlier. Moving along towards the front of the vehicle, if you have not found it yet, keep looking for the trailer plate and MOT disc. At the front of the trailer look at the fifth wheel and check that the dog clip is in place and again check the suzy lines. When you are back in the cab depress the brake pedal and listen for the air compressor to make sure that it is working and that the compressed air is being charged. If you happen to change your trailer you should carry out these checks again and you should also do it again at some point later in the day, after you have stopped for your break is a good time.

If you have found anything wrong you should in the first instance inform your transport manager so that he can advise you on what course of action to take. If there is something seriously wrong and you drive the vehicle you are risking your life, the publics and you and your company could be fined should you be stopped by VOSA or be involved in an accident.