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Drivers are key to cutting vehicle defects

More effective daily safety checks by lorry drivers would help reduce roadside prohibitions and help vehicle operators comply with the roadworthiness undertakings relating to their O-licence. An analysis by the Freight Transport Association Vehicle Inspection Service (FTA/VIS) has found that over half of safety related defects should have been found during daily walk-around checks by the driver and as many as 74 per cent for some sectors. Defects such as blown light bulbs, worn tyres or a missing filler cap are either not being found or not rectified.

This poor performance is reported in the May issue of 'Freight', the journal of the Freight Transport Association.

An analysis of HGV safety related defects identified by FTA engineers during 2006 found that 56 per cent were driver reportable and should have been identified during daily walk-round checks. By far the most common problems related to the electrical system, notably to lighting defects, followed by bodywork, tyres and brakes.

The performance of drivers varied from sector to sector but not as much as might be expected. For the building industry the rate was 59 per cent of all safety related defects – but even in the oil and chemical sector the figure was 51 per cent.

For trailers the average figure for driver reportable safety defects was the same as HGVs at 56 per cent, but there was much more variation between sectors. The oil and chemical industry had a driver reportable rate of 36 per cent but in the utilities and local authority sector it was 74 per cent, possibly reflecting lower levels of 'ownership' by drivers of infrequently-used trailers.

FTA Director of Audit Services Alan Osborne said, 'Picking up these simple and easily recognised defects is important as VOSA is now targeting its enforcement using the Operator Compliance Risk Score (OCRS), enabling it to focus on fleets which have an encounter history of safety related defects. More defects mean more prohibitions and possible problems with the future of the Operator Licence itself. And all so easily avoidable if the driver picks up on these problems in the first place as part of his daily check and a rectification system is in place.

'Managers should take a careful look at how these checks are being carried out, carefully audit driver defect reports, carry out spot checks as vehicles leave site and ensure that procedures are being properly followed.

'It's not rocket science but too often it's not being done properly. It will become increasingly important that it is in the future.'

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