MPs call for action on unsafe lorries

24 August 2009

VOSA, the Agency in charge of safety testing for lorries, buses and coaches, must be given additional powers and resources to get dangerous vehicles and drivers off our roads. Unsafe vehicles, often foreign registered lorries, cost lives. VOSA must have access to ports to prevent dangerous vehicles from entering the country. Licensing rules for buses and coaches should also be tightened, says the Transport Select Committee in its latest report.

In its report on the enforcement activities of the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) the Committee also calls for VOSA to be given IT systems and better information sharing arrangements with other agencies, such as HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Launching the report, Committee Chairman Louise Ellman said:

"Britain has some of the safest roads in Europe but more must be done to ensure compliance with our safety standards for lorries, buses and coaches. VOSA is recognised as a model of best practice and a leader within Europe but it lacks sufficient access to our ports to inspect vehicles and drivers effectively.

"The work of VOSA is also hampered by some of the data sharing regulations. It is clear that with many unsafe foreign registered lorries and drivers entering the UK, it is crucial that VOSA can share information with colleagues in other European countries to bring cowboy operators to book. Better arrangements are needed so that the tracking methods used so effectively to nail non-compliant British vehicles can be employed to target foreign registered lorries and coaches also."

With regard to UK vehicles, the committee calls for the Government to close loopholes in PSV licensing arrangements so that bus companies are barred from operating unfit vehicles by transferring licenses between vehicles.

MPs also recommend that the task of assisting the Traffic Commissioners in monitoring punctuality and (bus) service reliability to be transferred away from VOSA and passed to local Integrated Transport Authorities.

In addition, the Committee warns against privatising the entire network of safety testing centres for Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) / Public Service Vehicles (PSVs) on the basis this could significantly reduce access to testing, particularly in more remote areas of the country.

The report makes a number of key recommendations:

Operation of VOSA

Greater investment in better IT systems to support VOSA if necessary and adjustments to data protection rules so that they no longer hinder secure and effective data sharing with key Government agencies such as HMRC to better target vehicles that threaten road safety.

UK HGV and PSV vehicle testing arrangements

VOSA to retain a significant network of sites providing adequate coverage for annual testing throughout the UK. Above-inflation increases in testing fees must be justified with real improvements in testing services. Private sector sites may cut costs and deliver a more flexible testing service but complete privatisation of the testing service could affect smaller operators disproportionately and leave remote areas of the country without facilities.

Greater use of Operators Compliance Risk (OCR) Scoring and other targeting mechanisms could help apprehend those operators most likely to be non-compliant but should not be relied upon too strongly. OCR scores alone should not be regarded as a direct indicator of operator reliability or quality for unrelated purposes and VOSA should give clear guidance on how to interpret them appropriately.

Tightening PSV operator licensing

New rules to require the specification of individual vehicles on PSV licences to end the usage of such licences on multiple vehicles.

Transfer of responsibility for supporting the Traffic Commissioners in their monitoring of punctuality and (bus) service reliability to local bodies such as Integrated Transport Authorities.

Improving compliance among foreign-registered HGVs

VOSA to work intensively with other agencies to build a Europe-wide operator and vehicle registration database and with port authorities to establish a Memorandum of Understanding sufficient to provide direct and easy access to all UK ports. Also, to hire more staff to run schemes such as their High Risk Traffic Initiative (HRTI) if necessary.

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