Making sure your commercial vehicles are safe to use is a basic requirement for any mobile workforce.
Regular checks help to identify potential problems and to minimise the risks that a poorly maintained vehicle can pose to both drivers and the general public.
But what are the legal requirements for commercial vehicle checks and what do we mean by ‘regular’? Here’s a look:
What does the law say about commercial vehicle checks?
For operators of heavy goods and public service vehicles, carrying out checks is a legal requirement. Operators need to have a maintenance plan that meets the requirements of the Traffic Commissioner before they are granted an O-licence (operator licence).
This includes a statutory duty for drivers to carry out a walk-around check before using an HGV or PSV vehicle.
For ordinary commercial vehicles, there’s no specific legislation to cover the frequency or timing of vehicle checks.
Employer’s duties fall under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 which requires you to ensure, ‘so far as reasonably practicable’, the health and safety of employees.
Without statutory requirements, businesses need to adopt a common-sense and practical approach to vehicle checks.
What’s good practice for commercial vehicle checks?
The best approach will depend on the specific circumstances of your business operation. But an effective vehicle maintenance plan should cover two main areas:
Daily vehicle checks
Before using a vehicle, a driver needs to check it’s safe. This is not expected to be a detailed investigation but a basic walk-around check to identify any obvious problems. You can find information about what vehicle checks you should complete and government advice here.
Typically, checks will be done at the start of a working day, with time scheduled for the driver to complete the inspection and to record the results. With real-time management tools, the results of a vehicle check can be documented using a handheld device with the information instantly accessible.
When more than one driver is using a vehicle during a working day, the new driver should ideally carry out their own check. Care needs to be taken, however, to ensure that a walk-around check is carried out in a safe location, away from traffic.
In addition to pre-journey checks, many companies will use schedule checks at the end of a driver’s duties to note any issues or advisories that they encountered during usage. This provides more scope for carrying out maintenance before the vehicle is next required.
Once any kind of fault is identified, the employer has a responsibility to make sure that the risks are assessed and appropriate action is taken.
Maintenance checks are required which go beyond an annual MOT, service and the basic inspections carried by drivers. The frequency and type of these checks will depend on the requirements of each operation but include:
First use checks
If a vehicle is new or a private or hire vehicle is being used for work purposes, an initial check should be made. A safety plan should include a list of the required safety features for vehicles - such as reversing alarms and cameras.
These are checks carried out after a specific period. How often these are required needs to be determined from the type of use the vehicles are being put to. The more wear and tear they are receiving, the more frequent the checks need to be.
Frequency needs to be based on:
- Type and age of vehicle
- Nature of the work
- Nature of the load
- Typical terrain and climate
- Distance and speed of typical journeys
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) provides guidance on the type of frequencies they consider adequate for different scenarios:
|Lightly loaded vehicles – easy operating conditions||13–6 weeks|
|General haulage – trunking||10–5 weeks|
|Arduous work– constant heavy loads||8–4 weeks|
|Vehicle 12 years old or older||6 weeks|
|Off-road – difficult conditions||4 weeks|
An alternative approach is to carry out checks based on mileage intervals. Again, the intervals chosen will depend on the type of vehicles and the way they are used. This approach relies on having a system in place which can accurately record and monitor mileage across a workforce.
A combination of scheduled and mileage-based checks can be used to create a more flexible approach.
Image by mohamed Hassan.