A total of 22 lorry drivers have had their licences suspended for up to three weeks for using a mobile phone while driving, following a sting operation by Avon and Somerset Police.

The drivers were caught as part of Operation: Tramline, which took place in May, and resulted in a driver misconduct hearing before Traffic Commissioner (TC) Sarah Bell in Bristol on Monday (25 July).

A further 25 drivers caught during the operation will have their cases heard in a court in Birmingham later this week.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has also been brought in to provide further information to operators about road safety and eradicating the use of a mobile phone behind the wheel.

Ian Gallagher, FTA police manager for the South-West, told roadtransport.com: “The message that came out of the hearing was loud and clear: mobile phone use and driving doesn’t mix. If you drive while using the phone you are putting your license and your livelihood in jeopardy.

“Even hands-free calls can be an unwelcome distraction and will not be looked on kindly,” he warned.

He said the case was highlighted by the variety of excuses drivers offered for using a mobile phone: these include one driver who said holding a mobile phone was a substitute for smoking cigarettes as he had recently quit smoking and another who blamed his employer’s traffic office for calling him in the cab.

TC Bell added: “Drivers who persist in using hand-held mobile phones, laptops and other mobile devices while driving place other road users at real risk.

“This hearing should sound a warning to transport operators that their vehicles must be operated within regulations and with consideration for others’ safety – or their businesses will be affected.”