The Freight Transport Association has called on the Department for Transport to revisit its assumptions and calculations following the publication of a feasibility study which rejects using a database of foreign vehicles to improve road safety of UK roads. Industry had argued that VOSA's existing regime of roadside checks was too indiscriminate and that creating a data base of foreign vehicles to improve targeting – for example through a vignette scheme – would enhance existing enforcement efforts.
The DfT study rejects the case for a vignette on the basis of a model which attributes meagre benefits to the data base in terms of improved road safety, reduced road wear from overloaded vehicles, and lower levels of congestion resulting from accidents. Over a ten year period it assumes that just one life would be saved, that a trivial £560,000 of property costs would be saved, and that highways damage would be reduced by only £3.3 million. The net result is the database would yield just £1.7 million of benefits per year.
Simon Chapman, FTA's Chief Economist said, 'The Department and their consultants seem to have got their decimal places wrong and the report appears to undercook the benefits by several orders of magnitude. Police and Highways Agency experience is that foreign vehicles running in an unroadworthy condition, and with drivers who are over their safe driving hours, regularly slip through VOSA's net and as a result are causing accidents on a daily basis on the UK's roads.
'The research work needs to be independently reviewed by a neutral third party. It seems strange that a vignette is seen as practical in Germany and Benelux, but can't be made to work in UK'.
'The study also ignores planned changes to the way foreign vehicles can undertake business in the UK. On Monday the EU Transport Council expressed its support for European Commission proposals enabling foreign carriers to undertake up to three contracted domestic journeys within another member state over maximum period of seven days before a return international leg. At present domestic journeys by foreign vehicles, known as cabotage, need to be ad-hoc and unplanned. In order to enforce the new rules VOSA will need a robust database of who is in the country and how long they have been here.'
Enforcement of drivers' hours and roadworthiness standards for UK trucks is achieved through combining annual test pass history with road side encounter records into an Operator Compliance Risk Score (OCRS). Not tackling the cause, tackling the symptoms.