Jack Cox, business development manager at Everquip Garage Equipment, offers advice on the vehicle testing and inspection equipment needed to help fleets stay roadworthy
With the vision of safe drivers, safe vehicles and safer journeys, in November 2018 the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) refreshed its policy around commercial vehicle maintenance procedures, via an updated Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness.
Setting up a compliant and effective maintenance system for your vehicle is the ultimate goal. However, there are common areas of failure that are highlighted during MOT and ATF tests, such as brakes and headlights.
DVSA offers examples of expected frequency of safety inspections as follows: every 6-13 weeks for lightly loaded vehicles/easy operating conditions; 5-10 weeks for general haulage/trunking; every 4-8 weeks for arduous work/constant heavy loads; every four weeks for off-road/difficult conditions; and every six weeks for vehicles 12 years or older.
At all safety inspection facilities for commercial vehicles, DVSA advises that there should be undercover accommodation for the largest vehicle in the fleet to ensure adequate checks in all weather, tools and equipment appropriate to the fleet’s size and nature, an adequate under-vehicle inspection facility, and adequate lighting.
In addition, facilities should have access to brake testing, headlamp test and emission testing equipment, as well as access to steam or pressure under-vehicle washing facilities, and should offer a safe working environment.
“If an operator fails to maintain vehicles in a safe and roadworthy condition with the facilities provided the traffic commissioner may take regulatory action,” warns DVSA.
Both vehicle lifts and inspection pits allow best practice when inspecting the underside of a commercial vehicle. Each allows for clear room underneath the vehicle and offers the inspector of the vehicle a clear head height to comfortably and safely check the vehicle.
Inspection pits are used in DVSA authorised testing facilities (ATFs) across the UK. ATF inspection pits are also fitted with the following accessories to ensure commercial vehicles are checked thoroughly:
- Everquip use zone 2 lighting to H&S standard. This is to ensure the inspector can see clearly any visible signs of wear and tear on the underside of the commercial vehicle.
- Play detectors. Hydraulic operated play detectors turn the wheel to allow the inspector to check the steering and play of driving axles.
- Pit jacks, used to check the steering and play of axles much like play detectors, but are also useful if using the facility for repairs, which allow wheels to be freed to be changed.
DVSA have said it is: “strongly advised that a calibrated roller brake tester (RBT) is used at each safety inspection to measure individual brake performance and overall braking efficiencies for the vehicle or trailer.”
A commercial brake tester is a set of rollers that acts as a simulator for the wheels to turn. This allows the inspector to apply the brake to check the vehicle is able to stop correctly. It should test service brake, secondary brake and parking brake performance.
The commercial brake tester will use speed and force to denote if the wheels lock out – a lock out is seen as a good result. If the wheel doesn’t lock, it should then meet the brake efficiency set out by DVSA to achieve a pass.
Everquip’s commercial brake tester includes the DVSA database, which calculates automatically whether a vehicle has achieved a pass or fail result, and operates from a PC with printer, allowing test results to be stored and printed.
Headlights are one of the two most common failures across the UK when commercial vehicles are tested during their MOT.
Headlight testers come in two versions: manual and electronic. Both are approved by the DVSA for use in ATFs. Each version has the same method of installation; they both run on rails which need to be level to +/- 2mm.
If you have a drive-through workshop, the rails need to be recessed into the floor, to stop the rails from bending.
The electronic version uses the latest Bluetooth technology to send the results to the workshop PC, and enables a printed report to be attached to the inspection sheet.
Emission testing for vehicles falls into two categories: smoke testing for diesel vehicles, and gas testing for petrol vehicles.
In its Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness for commercial goods and passenger vehicles, DVSA states: “For vehicles showing signs of visible exhaust smoke, a diesel smoke meter should be used to ensure that the level of smoke emission is within the legal requirements.”
Therefore, it is not necessary to carry out an emission check on every vehicle during their safety inspection, and such checks are at the discretion of the inspector.