ROADPOL Operations Chief Briefing
EU on Truck & Bus Challenges
15 DEC - Truck and Bus enforcement challenges were the centre of ROADPOL Operational Working Group Chief Marijke Eskes address at the 2022 EU Road Safety Results Conference, held on December 8th in Brussels.
Mrs. Eskes who is head of Traffic enforcement department of the Police in Central Netherlands district had a speech and later on took part in a panel discussion with experts from the European Commission and private businesses representatives.
Mrs. Eskes started with pointing out that police forces are mainly responsible for enforcement, which is the final step in the chain of regulations, when all other authorities and interventions were not as successful as initially hoped. As first of the challenges she noted the complexity of regulations and legislation in the field of freight and passenger transport. “This means that enforcement can only be imposed by well trained police officers. To check a truck or bus nowadays you need to be a high-level expert”, said Eskes. She added several examples as to her point among which she indicated the prohibition of drivers taking the mandatory 45 hours weekly rest in the cabin of the truck. According to Eskes there is no comprehensive method by which an officer can check this in a proper way. “Мanipulation of tachographs is a very sophisticated violation which only very highly-trained officers are able to detect. And for this type of roadside checks police also need specific equipment which is very expensive hence often scarcely available”, Eskes explained.
Second point of Eskes' presentation was the disproportionate ratio between size of sanctions and haulers financial advantage of breaking the rules. “Fines seem to be high, but they are low compared to the economic advantage that is gained by not obeying the law. So we see a lot of recidivism. One of my officers in the Netherlands stopped a truck with the same driver three weeks in a row with a load of hay too high and too long for the trailer. The statement of the driver was that his boss said he preferred paying the fines rather than paying for extra fuel and extra payroll and losing another transport order”, Eskes told the audience. She added that due to financial considerations haulers degrade vehicle maintenance levels and that is why police come across lots of badly maintained trucks and buses.
Training of police officers in the field of commercial traffic inspections is another cause of concern. “It costs also a lot of time and money to educate and train police staff. Traffic safety is not a priority in most European countries so there is not enough money allocated to such training. Police capacity goes mainly to criminal offenses and terrorism, but not to traffic enforcement and most certainly not to enforcement of violations of trucks and buses”, Eskes explained.
Driver distraction was also noted by Mrs. Eskes. “It is a problem for all road users, but because we are talking about heavy weight vehicles this problem is even more serious here. The danger for the rest of the road users and the damage that can be caused is huge”, Eskes pointed out. According to her the main challenge of truck and bus driver distraction is the detection because police cars are low and drivers sit at a higher level. “So we have to be smart and inventive to see these violations. We hire trucks or buses to be able to ascertain that drivers are distracted. But this costs a lot of money so we can only do it incidentally. The monocam that we developed in the Netherlands can be a big help to solve this problem. The monocam can be stationed on a viaduct across the highway and so pictures can be taken from drivers that are using a device in a car and they find their fines on the door mat”, Eskes explained.
Eskes finished her speech on a high note pointing out the optimism in dealing with these issues. “Most of the problems can be solved when we as enforcers and other authorities collaborate on the road and do our checks together. We have this collaboration in working groups and in training of officers and roadside checks with ECR (European Controle Route) for many years. ECR a cross-border network on transport on the road and is now developing to a broader network within the EU and that will give us more opportunities in the near future to cooperate and help each other. Since 2021 ROADPOL has been collaborating with ELA (European Labour Authority) and it is very successful even though we just started the cooperation”, Eskes noted.