Life Motoring

Friday 22 August 2014

The alarming truth about commercial vehicle safety

Our RSA expert reveals how roadside inspections discover high level of defects

Published 22/01/2014 | 02:30

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The ‘chassis rail’ on a school bus

Recently we ran a short survey on the Road Safety Authority Facebook page. We asked followers how safe they felt sharing the roads with commercial vehicles, like trucks and buses. Three out of five replied that they felt safe.

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Next we asked how many commercial vehicles were found to have defects at RSA roadside checks last year. Only 7pc got the answer right. Most felt the vehicle fleet was in good health.

The reality is far different. Last year 7,048 vehicles were checked by RSA vehicle inspectors at roadside checks mounted in cooperation with the gardai.

Almost half the vehicles had defects. Of these, two in every five had defects serious enough to warrant immediate action such as impoundment, repair on site or a new roadworthiness test.

The Top Three most worrying areas with defects found during the inspections were:

* Axles, wheels, tyres and suspension - 15.5pc.

* Braking equipment - 13.8pc.

* Chassis and chassis attachments - 10.6pc.

Not surprisingly, when asked how safe they felt armed with this information the majority changed their view on the state of the national commercial fleet.

We are also concerned by the number of defective commercial vehicles on our roads. While it's important to acknowledge that many operators maintain their vehicles to the highest standards, many others do not.

The accompanying photograph is of a 'chassis rail' on a school bus. It has been packed with paper and expanding foam to disguise corrosion. It was discovered by one of our inspectors at a check. The vehicle was immediately impounded.

The effect of the extensive corrosion shown would be to considerably weaken the overall strength of the vehicle structure. In time it could cause a part of the vehicle to become loose (the suspension for example) leading to the bus collapsing on the road - probably when going over a bump or hitting a pothole.

If it were ever involved in a collision, the consequences could be far more serious. Basically, this vehicle is dangerously defective and should not be on the road until repaired.

SOUND

Of greater concern is the fact that in trying to conceal the level of this corrosion, the owner was fully aware of the problem and had no intention of fixing it.

Over the past number of years we have been working to turn the system that tests trucks and buses on its head - to ensure they are mechanically sound.

The last of the reforms, to what was commonly referred to as the 'DOE Test' and is now called the Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness Test (CVRT), are falling into place.

The new system means a more effective and standardised annual mechanical test. The introduction of operator premises visits where spot checks can be done on vehicles and maintenance records. There's also been an increase in inspection powers and the number of roadside checks being conducted.

A risk rating system will be introduced soon. This means that enforcement is targeted at higher-risk operators, who are breaking the law to undercut law-abiding ones.

We are supporting and protecting those who maintain safe fleets, and we will leave them alone to run their business.

The new system will certainly improve things because we know that not all vehicles are going for their annual roadworthiness test.

Of 1,000 randomly sampled commercial vehicles aged five years, only 70pc of the legally required tests were conducted.

We all have a responsibility to make sure the vehicles we drive are safe and roadworthy.

This is even more important for owners and operators of large commercial vehicles, such as buses, trucks, lorries or vans, as they can pose a big risk to their drivers, passengers and other road-users if they are not properly and safely maintained.

Irish Independent

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