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DVSA revises Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness

  • 12 June 2014
  • By Roger Brown

In April, the DVSA published a revised version of its Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness. The revision clears up some grey areas and gives better and more practical guidance to operators and drivers about ensuring the roadworthiness of a vehicle, write Joanne Witheford and Vikki Woodfine of DWF.

Given that the consequences of non-compliance with requisite standards of roadworthiness can range from prohibitions and fixed penalties, to prosecution and public inquiry, the guide should act as a bible for operators to aid them in staying compliant.
The DVSA seems to be adopting a common-sense approach in its new guide, and operators should take note of what the changes will mean to their practices.

Operators would be wise to familiarise themselves with the full guidance, but here is a summary of some of the key changes.

PMIs: the ISO week
Under the old guidance, an operator’s preventative maintenance inspection (pMI) intervals were six weekly, meaning PMIs must be done at least every 42 days and not one day over. thankfully, the DVSA has recognised the difficulties operators face getting a vehicle in on a specific day and has allowed some flexibility on this front.

The new recommendation is that a vehicle’s PMI must be completed within the relevant ISO week, which starts on a Monday and ends the following Sunday. Therefore, if a vehicle had its first inspection in week six of the ISO calendar and required scheduled PMI every six weeks, the following PMIs should take place within ISO week 12, 18, 24, 30, etc.

The change will mean operators have until the Sunday in the ISO week to complete the PMI. It is worth noting that if an additional safety inspection is carried out outside of the ISO planned schedule, a new schedule may need to be created to take this into account.

This change will be welcome news for operators, as getting a vehicle in for service on a specific day is not always easy.

An end to six-weekly inspections?
Again, the DVSA has adopted a practical approach and has recognised that the conditions a vehicle works in and the mileage of a vehicle are important factors to take into account when considering what a suitable PMI interval is.

The DVSA also notes that, as vehicles and trailers age, the average annual Motfailure increases, and has recognised that the inspection frequency should take account of that.

The DVSA has provided useful guidance on PMI intervals and included a helpful chart as a guide to how  often a vehicle will need a scheduled PMI. (DVSA, Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness 2014, Annex 4, page 36). For example, it is suggested that a vehicle that carries a light load, travelling 60,000 miles per year, will need a PMI every eight weeks.

Note that for vehicles aged 12 years and over, the recommended PMI interval period remains at least six weeks. From that it can be taken that newer vehicles should usually require longer PMI intervals (subject to the type of work and yearly mileage).

Changes to an operator’s PMI intervals must be made via notification to the Central Licensing Office or appropriate traffic commissioner. Therefore, it will be up to the operator of a newer vehicle to request a decrease in PMI interval periods if
they feel that the scheduled PMIs are too frequent. See page 20 of the new guide for fictional examples that discuss the frequency of PMIs.

Meaningful brake test four times a year
Probably the biggest burden placed on operators is the new guidance on brake testing, which has been formed in response to the number of test failures by reason of poor brake performance.

The guide strongly advises that “a calibrated roller brake tester [RBT] is used at each safety inspection to measure individual brake performance and overall braking efficiencies for the vehicle or trailer” . The brake test results should be appended to the
PMI sheet.

There is now a clear expectation that vehicles will undergo “at least three successful brake efficiency tests, in addition to the annual MoT test” . This new requirement will have the greatest impact on those operators who conduct in house maintenance (and in turn be of most benefit to the ATFs).

Drivers’ daily defect checks
The guidance remains that a daily walk-around check must be carried out before a vehicle is used and all defects should be recorded to help ensure constant vehicle roadworthiness.

The DVSA has included helpful photographs on its new walk-around check guide to make it clear what the driver should look for. Operators are advised to print and laminate this check sheet and provide a copy to each of their drivers as a point of reference. (DVSA, Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness 2014, page 52)

Advice on use of third party trailers
The DVSA has noted the reliance operators place on trailer owners to carry out routine maintenance and safety inspections of trailers. The new guidance clarifies that the traction operator is responsible for carrying out a walk-around check of the tractor/trailer combination to ensure that it is roadworthy. Traction operators are now expected to work with trailer owners to ascertain that all trailers operated are roadworthy and have complied with their agreed PMI schedule.

Any defects found must be recorded and rectified to ensure that the tractor/trailer combination is not operated in an “unroadworthy condition” .

  • The article was written by Joanne Witheford and Vikki Woodfine of DWF. For further information contact, Joanne Witheford on 0161 838 0108 or email
  • Download the full DVSA Guideto Maintaining Roadworthiness.
  • Commercial Motor’s Compliance and Best Practice Bulletin is sponsored by Tachodisc. To sign up to receive the monthly bulletin, go to the Compliance homepage.


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