Since June 2011 VOSA have been actively charging operators for the removal of an immobilisation device if it has been decided by the enforcement officer that immobilisation was an appropriate course of action. The removal fee is presently £80.00. This fee is over and above any other charge or action that has been taken against either or both the driver of the vehicle and the operator of the vehicle and must be paid by the operator before the vehicle is permitted to be moved. The authorisation to charge for removal of the immobilisation device/cord has been in place since the legislation was introduced in May 2009, but it is only in 2011 that VOSA have decided to actively utilise this additional revenue stream for the Treasury when dealing with UK registered vehicles.
Although my understanding was originally that immobilisation was only to be used in the most extreme circumstances when dealing with UK registered vehicles it seems that VOSA examiners are now being advised to immobilise if they believe that a vehicle defect will not or cannot be rectified at the roadside within one hour of the prohibition being issued.
The guidelines were originally that VOSA enforcement officers should only immobilise a vehicle when:
they believe that further use of the vehicle represents a danger to other road users. For example, if it is seriously defective; overloaded beyond design weights, or there is clear evidence that the driver has committed a serious breach of drivers' hours regulations
a prohibition for non-payment of a Financial Deposit Requirement is in force
the officer(s) examining the vehicle have information leading them to suspect that the driver will not comply with the prohibition that has been issued
The device used by VOSA to immobilise vehicles is a PVC-covered steel cable, secured by a padlock. It is fitted around the vehicle's wheels and substantial components.
A warning notice will be attached to the windscreen of the vehicle in an adhesive wallet. This will tell the operator how to deal with the prohibition issues that led to the immobilisation, and how to get the vehicle released. You will be committing an offence if you or someone acting on your behalf remove the warning notice or interfere with or remove the immobilising device.
Not all vehicles given an immediate prohibition will be immobilised. The VOSA enforcement officer is advised to consider any special circumstances. For example, VOSA guidelines state that the enforcement officer must take into account the type of load being carried. However, it must always be remembered that the officer may decide not to follow the guidelines and he may decide to immobilise a vehicle that, in others opinion, should not be immobilised. I have first hand experience of a UK based client vehicle that was carrying a perishable load being immobilised by an enforcement officer and left at the roadside for over 12 hours, even though the prohibitable item - a tyre - was changed at the roadside within 2 hours of the prohibition being issued. So...be warned! I do not have any evidence of this, but it could have been on this occasion that the rapport between the driver and the enforcement officer was not as it could have been and therefore a course of action was taken that could perhaps have been avoided.
It's important that drivers' are educated in how to deal with such circumstances. The days are gone when a driver can state "I'm only the driver, it's not my problem". A vocational driver is a professional driver and he or she has huge responsibility when travelling along the highways in one of your vehicles. The Traffic Commissioners and VOSA have both stated that drivers' must take their responsibilities seriously. Failure to do so will lead to prohibitive action against both you as the operator, as well as your driver. Both your drivers' and the enforcement officers are carrying out their duties when a spot check/roadside encounter takes place. The driver should be confident that the vehicle he or she is in charge of is, to the best of their professional knowledge, safe and compliant. The enforcement officer is tasked with carrying out roadside checks to ensure that the vehicles using the roads are safe and compliant. There may be occasions when two professionals disagree and this is when you as the operator must have prepared your driver and given him or her clear procedures to follow.
Within the online associate section of this website there are all the documents and information that you should be aware of and understand, with regards to fixed penalties and also VOSA guidelines.