The roadworthiness of trucks on British roads improved slightly last year, according to VOSA’s latest effectiveness report. While brake systems and components remain, worryingly, the most frequent reason for a truck to be given a prohibition after examination either at the roadside or on an operator’s premises, the percentage of vehicles found with such a defect has fallen from 10 per cent in 2011/12 to 8.9 per cent in 2012/13.
Figures for tyre condition and service brake operation have also improved marginally, and are now 4.2 and 4.7 per cent respectively.
Defects concerning lamps and mudguarding/spray suppression are up slightly, while steering system defects are down and there was a marginal increase in trailer brake system and component prohibitions. Seat belt problems remained the most common reason for prohibiting passenger vehicles, although the percentage found with faults here fell from 5.1 to 4.8 per cent.
Roadside inspections of vans revealed that nearly 37 per cent had defective tyres, continuing a rising trend since 2010/11. Drivers’ hours breaches remain the most common offence so far as truck drivers are concerned, while their PCV driving counterparts are more likely to commit tachograph or records offences.
VOSA reported 2,509 truck drivers for hours offences in 2012/13, and secured 2,130 convictions with an average fine of just over £128.
2,486 truck-driving tachograph /record offences were recorded, resulting in 1,664 convictions and an average fine of £153.43. The courts took a more serious view of the far smaller number of offences recorded by bus and coach drivers, where the average fine for tacho/records offences was nearly £237 and for drivers hours almost £272.
Interestingly, VOSA seems to find it far harder to obtain convictions for tachograph and record offences allegedly committed by passenger sector drivers. It reported 971 cases of tachograph/records offences, but obtained only 293 convictions, while of the 595 drivers’ hours offences reported, only 218 resulted in conviction.
Within the truck sector, the highest fines were imposed for overloading offences, where the average fine was nearly £781, and the 247 offences reported resulted in 231 convictions.
The highest category fines of all were imposed on the bus and coach sector for construction and use offences. There were only eight such offences reported through the year, but these resulted in a 100 per cent conviction-rate and the courts imposed average fines of over £1,443. In contrast 114 construction and use offences were reported in the truck sector, resulting in 100 convictions with average fines of ‘only’ £392.
Overloading was the most frequent offence in the light goods sector, with 272 reported, 256 convicted and average fines of over £800.
VOSA is impounding more trucks and buses than ever before, although the numbers seized remain a small fraction of the vehicles on the road. Impounding was introduced as a means of dealing with serious offences, particularly where it was difficult to clearly identify the vehicle operator, during the 2010/11 operational year.
In the first year, 19 trucks and just two PCVs were seized. The following year, truck number fell to 16, while passenger vehicles (including stretch limousines) rose to six, while last year 28 trucks and 13 passenger vehicles were impounded.
Half of all large vans unroadworthy at annual test
Vans and trucks of between 3 and 3.5 tonnes gross weight are the most unroadworthy of British vehicles, according to VOSA’s figures. Nearly half of all commercial vehicles of between 3,000 and 3,500 kg gross weight failed their initial test, and over 40 per cent were so unroadworthy that they could not get through the test at all.
Faulty lighting and signaling was the most frequent reason for failure, followed by brakes and then suspension. In contrast, the initial failure rate for heavy trucks was 22.4 per cent and for passenger vehicles 18.5 per cent.
Trailers were the best-prepared of the lot, with just 15.7 per cent failing initial test.
There was a general trend toward improved pass rates over the last three years across all classes, and vehicles which were tested at private facilities such as ATFs enjoyed better pass rates than those tested at VOSA’s own stations. In both cases, the tests are carried out by VOSA employees, and the suggestion is that workshops where testing is undertaken have a better understanding of test requirements than those where it is not.
Trucks from larger fleets were far less likely to fail their initial test than those from smaller operations. One-truck operations saw a failure rate of just over 30 per cent, while for fleets of over 100 the rate was just nine per cent. In the passenger sector the trend was even more marked: the one-vehicle operators suffered an initial failure rate of nearly 45 per cent, while the fleets of over 100 saw an initial failure rate of just 5.3 per cent.
The great bugbear of headlamp aim remained the most common reason for truck test failure at 9.2 per cent, followed by lamps at 4.4 per cent, brake system components at 3.6 per cent, service brake performance at 3.5 per cent and secondary brake performance at 2.3 per cent.
Service brake performance (7.9 per cent) and parking brake performance (4.8 per cent) were the most frequent reason for trailer fails. Headlamp aim and lamps were also the two most frequent reasons for passenger vehicle failures at 6.6 and 2.9 per cent respectively, followed by brake system components at 2.8 per cent.
VOSA continues purge on unroadworthy foreign trucks
Last year VOSA issued mechanical prohibitions on 36 per cent of the 30,272 foreign-registered trucks that it checked. It checked tachographs on 43,408 foreign trucks and had a 17.9 per cent prohibition rate, and weighed 2,651, yielding a 62.7 per cent prohibition rate.
On GB-registered trucks it carried out 37,559 mechanical checks with a prohibition rate of 29.5 per cent, 37,388 tachograph checks with a 19.4 per cent prohibition rate, and 2,759 weight checks with a 59.7 per cent prohibition rate.
These are, of course, not representative figures. The VOSA OCRS system means that UK operators with ‘previous’ are the ones most likely to be targeted, and the organisation is now also building up a picture of compliance among foreign operators too.
Nowhere are VOSA’s efforts better targeted than in its pursuit of overloaded vehicles. It now has ‘weigh in motion’ devices installed at several points on Britain’s international road network, enabling it to identify overladen trucks for weighing while they travel down the motorway.