On 1 March last year, the Swedish Transport Agency introduced new fines in the haulage industry.
As a result, many Swedish hauliers could face such high fines that they risk bankruptcy.
Of course regulations are necessary, but within reason.
In Sweden, there is a requirement to carry out checks on three percent of the days worked by drivers who are covered by the rules on driving and resting times. The Swedish Transport Agency and the Swedish Police Authority share the responsibility for carrying out these checks. This means that company checks are performed on half of the days and road checks are performed on the other half.
The EU has established the regulations that apply in all EU countries, but each member state decides the size of the fines and whether the driver or the haulier is liable to pay. The rules vary considerably between countries. For instance, in Poland the driver is charged a heavy fine for infringements. In Spain, on the other hand, the haulier is liable while the driver pays nothing.
In Sweden the driver is only checked for 28 days back in time and is subject to a maximum fine of SEK 10,000.
However, the Swedish Transport Agency can check the Swedish haulier that employs the offending driver for up to 12 months back in time and inspect the on-board computer for irregularities. Even minor infractions are registered and subject to fines.
So far, the maximum fine in Sweden has been SEK 200,000 or 10 percent of the haulier’s sales during the two-month period examined by the Swedish Transport Agency.
But as of March, the two-month ceiling will be raised to SEK 800,000 or 1 percent of sales.
This will wreak havoc in the Swedish haulage industry, which is already up against a severe shortage of drivers and low margins.
Today all trucks and tractor units are equipped with digital tachographs, from which all manner of information can be retrieved. This, combined with the fact that each driver is required to insert a private driver card into the tachograph, allows the Swedish Transport Agency to retroactively monitor all the driver’s actions and vehicle use.
Of course haulage companies should monitor their drivers’ actions and ensure they follow the rules, but because of the shortage of professional drivers in Europe, it is hard to protect hauliers from foul play. Many professional drivers work for less than a year with the same haulier, making it impossible to punish the driver retroactively. Instead, the haulier must bear the whole cost. The Swedish Transport Agency firmly maintains that hauliers are responsible for ensuring that their drivers know the rules and use the tachograph correctly.
Obviously I agree with this, but there needs to be some rhyme and reason.