Two former directors who were imprisoned for a combined period of 3 ½ years for tachograph offences have now been ordered to pay £1,835,793 within 6 months or face an additional 4 to 5 ½ years in prison.
The order was made under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 after the court found that an operator, Boyles Transport Limited, had benefitted by over £10m from conspiring with drivers to make false tachograph records. It was found that drivers were working up to 22 hour days as part of the systemic tachograph fraud and the ruling means that the directors must now pay back £1.8m proceeds of crime by selling their trucks, trailers and probably their homes.
Reflecting on the severity of the offences, a spokesman for Cumbria Constabulary said: “These two company directors placed people’s lives in danger by manipulating their staff into taking serious risks on the road by having them drive for up to 22 hours a day- placing their own staff and innocent road users in significant danger of being involved in a collision. This work practice enabled them to undercut deliveries on cost and time, and placed pressure on struggling competitors who were trying to work within the law. In an audit 91% of journeys involving Boyle Transport trucks and drivers had some form of manipulation or falsification hiding the true driving hours worked”
The ruling is being welcomed across the industry; Law –abiding operators often protest that staying within the law makes them uncompetitive compared to others from home and abroad who are willing to flout the rules. This decision is a victory for those operators who do play by the rules.
This was already a very serious case that went against all principles of road safety and fair competition. While the consequences paid by the directors was already very high as a result of losing their liberty, it still didn’t address the financial gain that had clearly been made. We have seen vehicles seized previously in cases where hauliers have profited from criminal activity, but this is a very rare and sensational response in this case. Given the amount that Boyles were shown to have made from their criminal activity, the amount ordered in this case could only ever have been measured highly.
Orders as severe as this one for tachograph offences are rare, however, they may become more common in future as VOSA and the police will be buoyed by their success in this case. Nevertheless, operators should note that these proceeds of crime cases are likely to be reserved for only the most serious cases of systemic and prolonged abuse of driving legislation.
For further information on the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 or drivers’ hours’ legislation, contact DWF’s Regulatory Transport lawyers, Joanne Witheford at firstname.lastname@example.org or Vikki Woodfine at email@example.com.