As with any vehicle, the importance of ensuring roadworthiness for Heavy Goods Vehicles is an essential element of vehicle ownership, and a vital component of running a fleet of heavy goods vehicles.
The Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) published a useful guide to keeping commercial vehicles safe to drive (roadworthy). This guide includes both Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) and Public Service Vehicles (PSVs). Updated in December 2020, the most recent guide is available to download from the GOV.UK website, though we will explain the main points in detail here.
This article focuses on HGVs, and looks in detail at the necessary daily checks, inspections, maintenance, and record keeping required to ensure that your vehicle is safe to use.
As a conscientious business owner you will undoubtedly carry out regular checks of your vehicles. But did you know that it is actually the drivers’ legal responsibility to ensure that the vehicle they are about to use is fit to drive?
Daily walkaround checks are a simple method of making sure that a vehicle is as safe as it can be. They ensure that drivers are familiar with their vehicle and are looking for issues that could become serious and potentially dangerous. HGVs, by nature tend to do high mileage and problems can develop quickly.
With this in mind it is vital to ensure that daily vehicle walkaround checks are carried out every 24 hours by your drivers and that those checks are accurately recorded and kept safe. The DVSA recommends that these checks are carried out before a vehicle is driven each day.
Where more than one driver is going to use a vehicle in a single day each person should be satisfied that the vehicle is roadworthy by carrying out their own daily check. This may not always be possible due to health and safety considerations such as the location of a vehicle at its handover, however this practice should be followed as often as possible.
One suggestion that the DVSA makes is that it could be beneficial to include a post-use check at the end of a drivers’ shift.
Clearly, a daily check should not take a great deal of time to carry out – if it takes too long then it could risk being skipped due to perceived time pressures. However, this scenario needs to be avoided at all costs.
Rather than giving a specific timeframe it is sensible to advise that a check should take long enough to ensure that everything that needs checking has been seen. Operators should ensure that staff are properly trained to carry out daily checks.
When carrying out a vehicle check you should give yourself enough time to be able to prove that you have inspected all appropriate interior and exterior elements of the vehicle before you drive it, and, crucially that the check is recorded appropriately.
The results of daily defect checks form a critical part of a vehicle maintenance system to ensure that a vehicle maintains its roadworthiness.
The DVSA has published a useful video that covers the main aspects of the HGV daily vehicle check. This video can be found on YouTube
Daily checks should be applied to the whole vehicle, or combination of cab and trailer and can usually be carried out by one person. It may speed the checks up if assistance is available when checking that external lights work, for example.
Areas of the cab that should be inspected from the drivers’ seat include:
External checks should be carried out on:
Any defects or areas of concern should be recorded in a written report, either by the driver or someone with responsibility for recording defects.
Reports must include details of how any found defects were rectified before the vehicle was used. Drivers must report any defects or symptoms of defects that could prevent a vehicle being operated safely. This is an essential element of monitoring the roadworthiness of a vehicle. It is also wise to include a list of all elements of the daily check.
Further information that should be included in a defect report includes:
Responsibility for monitoring the roadworthiness of a vehicle stays with the driver whilst a vehicle is being driven. If any faults or symptoms of faults such as warming lights or vibrations are observed the vehicle should be checked and removed from service or not used again on the road until the faults have been repaired.
Traffic commissioners can take action against a driver who fails to complete an adequate walkaround check. This could lead to a driver conduct hearing, which may result in the loss of the vocational driving licence.
Source: Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness
A useful tool to make sure that HGV daily walkaround checks are being carried out every day is to require that a ‘nil’ report be logged when the daily check has not returned any faults. This system means that there will be a report for every day that a vehicle is used and acts as confirmation that a vehicle is free from defects at the start of that day.
The daily check and nil report process enables you to check that drivers are fulfilling their responsibilities and can also help with audit purposes.
A handy daily walkaround checklist from MHF (UK) Ltd is available to download here:
If you are an owner-driver you will not have anyone to report defects to however it is still good practice to follow these guidelines to ensure you have a properly maintained vehicle that is roadworthy. Once a defect is found, any repairs should be recorded, and such records kept for a minimum of 15 months.
MHF (UK) Ltd is able to offer guidance on all elements of the HGV daily walk round check and can also carry out any necessary repairs should any issues be identified as requiring attention. All our mechanics are professionally trained, and we work hard to ensure that training is up to date, reflecting changes to Government guidance and legislation.