Saturday, 7 November 2015

DfT takes next step in extending O-licensing and annual tests . . .


DfT takes next step in extending O-licensing and annual tests

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The Department for Transport (DfT) has published summaries of responses to two recent consultations, which explored the possibility of extending the scope of the annual roadworthiness test and operator licensing regimes to currently exempted vehicle categories.

The DfT found that around 78 per cent of respondents were “generally in favour of introducing annual roadworthiness testing for one or more of the ten categories of vehicle” from a list on which it had consulted, which included mobile cranes, breakdown vehicles, engineering plant such as volumetric concrete mixers, tower wagons, road construction vehicles and electrically propelled vehicles.

Two thirds also supported the extension of annual testing to vehicles currently exempt under Sections 44 and 185 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 – namely, vehicles carrying abnormal loads, and some other special vehicle categories.

However, it said: “concerns were raised by many about the ability to test some types of vehicles in current testing stations using current testing methods – with many respondents suggesting that special testing arrangements will need to be developed for specific vehicles.”

Some of these concerns came from the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), which oversees the annual test. Some very wide vehicles, or those with very high or low ground clearance would struggle to access many authorised testing facilities (ATF), the agency said.

Summarising DVSA’s response, DfT added: “Additionally most ATFs do not have alternatives to roller brake testing. If a vehicle cannot be roller brake tested due to design, balloon tyres, transmission, ground clearance or size a brake test could not be carried out. There may also be issues relating to loading some vehicles for a suitable brake test.”

DVSA suggested that some exemptions from specific test items might need to be considered to avoid vehicles requiring ‘considerable modification’ in order to comply.

A notable proportion of the responses came from volumetric concrete businesses or associated organisations, which: “expressed concern that an unintended consequence of annual testing vehicles would be that they would not be able to legally operate at design weights; and they therefore sought agreement to operate such vehicles to design weights, or at least to have further discussions on this issue.”

One popular suggestion was that: “any vehicle based on an HGV chassis and used on a public road should be tested.” Some organisations even called on an extension of this to emergency service vehicles, given the speeds they may travel at.

DfT said the consultation responses had raised: “a number of issues that require further detailed work before final decisions can be taken. For each vehicle type being considered for inclusion in annual roadworthiness testing the Department will consider the practicalities of that testing, including considering if the vehicle type may require special arrangements to safely facilitate annual roadworthiness testing.”

The full consultation and response summary can be viewed here.

Meanwhile, a separate consultation asked whether engineering plant (including volumetric mixers), recovery and breakdown vehicles, showman’s vehicles, mobile cranes and electrically-operated vehicles should fall under the scope of the HGV operator licensing regime.

A majority of respondents (around two thirds) agreed that ‘engineering plant’-category vehicles with fixed equipment that deliver goods (either processed or not) should no longer be exempt from O-licensing. Safety and enforcement organisations, as well as the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and Freight Transport Association (FTA) were unanimous on this.

“Responses have confirmed that there is a concern that there can be competition between regulated vehicles and non-regulated vehicles operating in the same market,” said DfT.

“The most obvious example is between rotary cement mixers and volumetric concrete mixers where both vehicle types carry and deliver similar products, but under different regulatory regimes.

“It is noted that there was a broad consensus that for vehicles that both carry and deliver a product there is little justification for these vehicle not being operated under an operator’s licence.”

There was also a strong response from circus and funfair operators, arguing that they should retain their current O-licensing exemption.

As a result, DfT said it: “accepted that the long established exemption for genuine showmen’s vehicles, where there is a low mileage and a difficulty in identifying a regular operating base, is not compatible with the operator licensing system.”

It added that the situation as regards recovery vehicles was “mixed”, and that it intends to explore the possibility of a separate licensing system for this sector.

Decisions on any changes are expected in late 2015. Full details of this consultation and responses are available here.

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