Traffic commissioners call for a change in attitude towards brake testing

Ashleigh Wight
November 7, 2017


The traffic commissioners (TC) have called on operators to improve their approach to brake testing after warning that the issue of poor brake testing is appearing “far too frequently” during enforcement investigations.

The industry regulators said that many operators are failing to carry out testing at the frequency required under O-licensing law, or at all, and are recording too little on brake test documentation to offer any meaningful assessment, or not recording any information.

They said that despite the clear message that was sent to the haulage industry after the Bath tipper case, in which poor brake maintenance led to the deaths of four people in 2015, TCs are still receiving reports of a lack of effective brake performance testing regimes.

TCs Sarah Bell and Kevin Rooney, the lead TCs for enforcement, urged operators to conduct a review of their brake testing procedures.

They said: “This should include an analysis of safety inspection records over the last 15 months, looking at whether the type of test and the information recorded is sufficient.

“Operators must make sure their brake tests are planned in line with DVSA guidance and satisfy themselves that the vehicles and trailers running under their licence are roadworthy.

 “This is not limited to a specific type of licence, size of operator or a particular sector – it is across the board. That is why TCs are highlighting the need for a change of attitude within the industry towards brake testing.

“There should be no compromise in any operator’s approach, no flexibility around standards.”

They referred operators to the DVSA Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness, which states that every safety inspection must include a metered assessment of braking performance of vehicles and trailers, rather than a road test.

They said recent cases at public inquiry (PI) have included:

  • a Barking-based operator with missing brake figures on preventative maintenance inspection (PMI) sheets;
  • a Louth operator with brake test results not added to PMI records and no evidence of periodic brake testing. A vehicle with a braking defect was also used for a whole week, despite the driver identifying it during daily checks;
  • a Coddenham-based operator with the brake test section of PMI records not completed. Four brake performance tests were not conducted annually on each vehicle and trailer;
  • a London operator that failed to comply with an undertaking given at a PI to have roller brake tests carried out every six weeks;
  • an Ashford firm which had not carried out a brake test since 6 December 2016, with the brake testing section of PMI records left blank on five out of seven inspections;
  • a Rainham-based firm which failed to comply with an undertaking to have brake testing every quarter;
  • a London-based operator with ‘not applicable’ written in the brake test section of every PMI.

The DVSA said around a quarter of the vehicles found with defects have a brake issue of some sort.

About the Author


Ashleigh Wight

Ashleigh is a former news reporter for Commercial Motor and Motor Transport and currently the editor of OHW+ and HR and wellbeing editor at Personnel Today.

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