The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) in the UK says that it has issued 7,000 prohibition notices in the last 12 months against companies that have not properly maintained their vehicles. The organisation said that failure to maintain vehicles could lead to death or serious injury.
Advice from Awani Patel of Markel Law.
What happens at a roadside check?
Both the police and the DVSA have the power to carry out roadside checks on lorries, coaches, vans and buses. If you are asked to stop by the DVSA or the police, they will either carry out checks by the roadside or they can take your vehicle to a testing centre. The purpose of these checks is to ensure that unsafe vehicles are not driven on the road. They can check load weights, the roadworthiness of the vehicle, mechanical faults, tachograph records and driving licences.
Failing to stop when requested is a criminal offence. As a result, you may be interviewed under caution, charged to go to court and/or referred to the Traffic Commission for review of your operator’s licence.
What enforcement action can be taken?
If the DVSA or police identify mechanical defects on the vehicle, they can issue an on the spot fine. For more serious breaches they can prosecute the driver, the operator or the business, or all three depending on the offence committed. A referral to the Traffic Commissioner can also be made, which may lead to you being called to attend a public inquiry to explain the maintenance systems you have in place for your vehicles. A Traffic Commissioner can impose conditions, suspend or revoke your operator’s licence altogether. A prohibition notice can also be issued preventing the vehicle from being driven until steps are taken to fix the problems found. There are a number of different types of prohibition notices that can be issued.
How can you comply with your duties?
Both the driver and the operator have responsibilities. The driver should complete a daily walk around check at the start of each day. This should include the lights, tyres and wheel fixings. A written record should be kept to show the checks made, the details of any defects identified and who they were reported to.
As the operator, you must:
- Have a maintenance system in place. Whether this is carried out by yourself or by an external garage, you need to ensure they have a good understanding of the DVSA inspection manual.
- Provide your driver(s) with training and instructions about their responsibilities as a driver.
- Have a system to prevent non-roadworthy vehicles being used.
- Ensure that the driver is carrying out the daily checks properly.