The Law makes it clear that work equipment should be maintained in good repair and working order with vehicles being no exception. Employers will have a preventative maintenance programme in place which should be scheduled at least 6 months in advance. Drivers should have a daily checklist to complete whether paper or electronically recorded and should show both nil and identified defects. For commercial vehicles over 3.5T the ‘DVSA Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness’ includes a comprehensive checklist and drivers must be allocated sufficient time in their work schedule to complete these ’first use checks’. Defect sheets must show a clear line from identification to rectification and records kept for a minimum of 15 months.
Vehicles that fall out of scope of an Operator Licence and those less than 3.5T, cars and vans must still be maintained by the drivers with daily or first use checks often following a simpler format such as FLOWERED (Fuel, Lights, Oil, Water, Electrics, Rubber, Environment, Damage). Responsibility falls on the driver to complete those checks and in the event the vehicle is stopped the driver will face possible prosecution. For a company owned vehicle it is possible that the law would also look at the part played by supervisors, managers or directors with poor processes, record keeping and culture all be taken into account.
In December 2020 the importance of vehicle maintenance and responsibility was tested in a new way in Court. A driver, using someone else’s car drove dangerously, with no Insurance and over the drink drive limit resulting in a fatal crash of another motorist in 2018. He was sent to prison as a result. Importantly the passenger in the car was also the vehicle owner who had been issued with an advisory MOT notice for poor tyre tread several months earlier. The car was knowingly driven for a further 7,000 miles before being involved in the fatal crash. Using the little known Accessories and Abettors Act 1861, for which there were no sentencing guidelines the passenger was prosecuted for ‘aiding and abetting causing death by dangerous driving’. Whilst he was not the driver he was found to be responsible and received a 2 year 6 month prison sentence alongside a driving ban of 4 years 3 months.
For faults the Police will have the powers to stop the vehicle, of any type, and issue a vehicle defect rectification notice for which there are 14 days to evidence that the work has been completed.
Further, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) have the powers to stop any commercial driver which includes vans, lorries, buses and coaches. They are able to carry out spot checks and issue fixed penalties or prohibitions if necessary.
Not stopping for either party is an offence.
Both parties have the power to seize or immobilise the vehicle if deemed unroadworthy.
It is important that all those involved in the supply, maintenance, use and driving of vehicles take responsibility for its safety and condition. For those who fall into the scope of the new van Operator Licence changes in 2022 will also need to consider the planned maintenance process is robust enough to meet the requirements of the Traffic Commissioner.