Watchdog to probe safety of our lorries
THE Road Safety Authority (RSA) is to carry out a major probe into the safety of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) in Ireland after one-third of those using UK roads were found to be in a dangerous condition.
Researchers will also question drivers about the number of hours they work without taking a break amid concerns that rules designed to avoid fatigue are being flouted.
The probe comes as new figures from the UK's Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, which carries out spot checks on HGVs, show that almost one in three Irish-registered trucks failed road-worthiness tests.
Cabs and trailers were found to be defective, vehicles were overloaded, drivers were working excessively long hours and some 2,375 drivers were given on the spot fines between April 2009 and March this year.
The figures reveal:
- Some 11,847 vehicles were stopped, with 1,785 of these failing to meet minimum safety standards,.
- There were 2,363 'trailer prohibitions', representing 40pc of all trailers checked.
- Another 881 vehicles were found to be dangerously overloaded.
- More than one in five of drivers were found to have breached strict rules limiting the number of hours to be worked without taking a break.
Fatigue is a known risk factor in road collisions and can result in drivers losing concentration or falling asleep at the wheel.
EU law requires drivers to take at least a 45-minute break for every 4.5 hours driven, and drivers cannot work for more than 56 hours in a week, or a maximum of 90 in a fortnight.
The RSA yesterday advertised for consultants to carry out surveys from early in the new year to give a measure of the condition of the HGV fleet and buses, and to ensure HGV drivers are complying with EU rules relating to driving times.
The survey's purpose is three-fold: to measure compliance with the law, check whether policies and enforcement strategies are effective and to get an overview on how safe the national haulage fleet is.
"It will assist in more targeted enforcement by the RSA through the identification of vehicles that are more likely to exhibit roadworthiness defects," tender documents published yesterday said.
"As regards drivers' hours rules, the survey outcomes will be used to establish the overall state of compliance by drivers with the rules. The survey results will also be used by the RSA as an indication of the types of operators that should be targeted in the context of roadside and premises checks."
The surveys of HGVs, trailers and buses will be completed during roadside checks. The survey of buses will be carried out through a combination of roadside checks, calls to premises and test centre visits.
The RSA intends said the surveys would audit the "general condition" of the national fleet of heavy goods vehicles and buses.
They would also help safety chiefs identify high risk companies or individuals that might be flouting the rules.
"The survey information will be used to measure compliance of commercial vehicle operators and drivers with applicable rules," a spokesman said.