Cheshire Constabulary's Commercial Vehicle Unit began in June 2009, working in partnership with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), HM Revenue & Customs Road Fuel Unit (HMRC) and the Highways England.
It is part of the Constabulary’s Strategic Road Policing Unit and has dedicated officers checking the roadworthiness of commercial vehicles by the M6 services at Sandbach.
The unit has been extremely successful over the years and the work of the members of staff involved has been praised by the Traffic Commissioner for the North West, Beverley Bell.
What do Cheshire Police check for when they stop a commercial vehicle?
- Roadworthiness - Is the vehicle fit to be on the road?
- Drugs - Are drugs being smuggled?
- People smuggling - Are people entering/travelling around the country illegally?
- Money laundering - Is money hidden in any of the compartments?
- Counter terrorism - Is theer any paraphernalia relating to terrorist activity?
- Illegal use of fuel - Using rebated heavy oil or red diesel is a criminal offence, and should only be used by farmers
- Tachograph - The device that monitors how long the driver has been at the wheel and details about their journey. Tachographs are either paper or electronic. Those found to have tampered with their tachograph will be fined and their vehicle impounded for 45 hours.
What are the consequences of committing a crime?
On the spot fines
Legislation allows the police and DVSA to issue on the spot fines to drivers without a suitable UK address. These range from £30 to £300, with a maximum of three tickets, or £900, per offender.
Fixed penalty notices
Drivers of heavy goods vehicles are restricted to a number of hours they can drive each day and each week and are also restricted to a maximum weight per vehicle. Such breaches are dealt with by graduated fixed penalty notice and prohibition.
Prohibition of a vehicle
Cheshire Constabulary and DVSA can in certain circumstances prohibit a vehicle for up to 45 hours. If it is suspected that the vehicle may be driven away. Or if a driver does not pay the fine, then the vehicle can be immobilised. This is basically an armoured cable wrapped around an axle so it cannot move.
Fine and prohibit before court proceedings
Cheshire Constabulary and DVSA fine and prohibit before any subsequent court proceedings. However if a driver goes to court and is found not guilty, fines are returned with interest paid. So far there have been two 'not guilty' pleas, which have both been found guilty in court.
Since May 2006, all tachograph recording equipment is digital, which means all driving activities are recorded on a driver card. One of the most serious offences is when a driver attaches a magnet to the sender unit by the vehicle gear box or uses an electronic device that interferes with the recording equipment and can show the vehicle at rest when actually in motion. It essentially creates a false record and it also will interfere with the anti-lock braking system and will bypass the speed limiter - thereby allowing the vehicle to attain any speed. This will also mean none of the controls will operate up on the dashboard.
“There are a very small minority of drivers and hauliers who continue to flout the rules and regulations. If they use Cheshire's motorway network, the will be stopped and dealt with robustly. This may be by way of a fixed fine, court appearance or time off the road in the form of prohibition.”
For more information about the rules involving the number of hours a lorry, van, bus and coach driver can spend on the road, and the use of tachographs, please go to the drivers' hours section on the Government website.