Fleet News

Employers to be liable if drivers use mobiles

EMPLOYERS fear a wave of red tape and unnecessary court cases under new Government proposals allowing companies to be prosecuted if staff use hand-held mobile phones while driving.

The Department for Transport is consulting on plans for a new offence of using a hand-held phone while driving, to combat what it sees as a growing problem. It proposes £30 on-the-spot fines for each offence, but if drivers dispute the penalty, they could end up being fined £1,000 in court if found guilty.

Government estimates suggest the ban could generate £8 million a year in fines, from 100,000-fixed penalty notices and 5,000 court appearances.

The only way of escaping a fine would be to make a call while stationary with the engine off or to use a fully hands-free system. Employers have also been warned they will face prosecution if they 'cause or permit' phone use by drivers.

This was backed up by Transport Minister David Jamieson. 'If people are expected, as part of their job, to sometimes take calls that are 10 or 20 minutes long and then cause a serious hazard to themselves and other people on the road, then clearly we have got to take action about that,' he said.

But business leaders are concerned this is punishing companies unfairly for something they cannot control.

Digby Jones, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said: 'The Government has pledged to ease regulations but they are bringing in an average of 10 new regulations every single day. While it would be very wrong for an employer to force an employee to use a mobile phone in the car, how would businesses prevent employees from doing so?'

Fleets throughout the country are now under the spotlight to prepare their response to the consultation document.

A spokesman for the Association of Car Fleet Operators said: 'There are several important issues, such as what steps can a company take to force employees not to use mobiles and what steps a company can take to ensure that employees do not use their own phones?

'All our regions will debate this topic at their earliest opportunity as part of an open debate, before submitting our comments.'

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