As the UK starts its period of lockdown due to the outbreak of COVID-19, a number of services have temporarily closed. Whilst government advice is that MOT testing stations can stay open, there are some maintenance providers to the road haulage industry that have closed.
This leaves operators in a vulnerable position with regard to their licence undertaking of ensuring vehicles undergo a preventative maintenance inspection (PMI) at agreed intervals. That interval was agreed upon when their licence was granted and in most cases, the interval is between 6 and 8 weeks.
The Senior Traffic Commissioner has recognised that the situation is ever-changing and so guidance available to the transport industry will evolve alongside the developing crisis. The most recent temporary guidance relaxes the stance on a number of foreseeable issues, which includes the maintenance of vehicles.
Despite the flexibility the STC is providing, the message remains clear; vehicles should not be operated in an unsafe condition and regulatory action may be taken if such unsafe practices are reported.
Preventative Maintenance Inspections ("PMI")
The temporary guidance confirms that maintenance intervals can exceptionally and in limited situations be extended in line with a number of principles that are set out below.
It should be noted that these principles only apply to essential transport services involved in the delivery of food, non-food (personal care and household paper and cleaning), door to door refuse collection and disposal services, health services and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals in situations where their normal maintenance arrangements are affected by COVID-19.
The STC guidance confirms the following:
- PMI intervals can be extended by up to 50% with a maximum of 17 weeks, whichever is the lesser, if it’s not possible to obtain the PMI under the normal inspection arrangements.
- There is no need for a revised maintenance contract with maintenance providers to reflect the revised intervals but operators should still update their licence records online. Operators are advised to use the box provided for the maintenance supplier's address to record the temporary arrangements. Operators can access their records at the following link with using their usual login details.
- Evidence of the justification for the reduction, such as a letter or email from the workshop confirming unavailability, is to be kept with PMI records and able to be produced to OTC/DVSA/police on request.
- DVSA will not take enforcement action for vehicles operated with ‘in-service reported’ non-safety critical minor and major defects, where either parts or workshops are unavailable. This does not include using a vehicle with any dangerous defects or major defects associated with brakes, steering, suspension or tyres. Operators need to keep evidence on the maintenance file where repairs have needed to be deferred due to these exceptional circumstances. The judgement of whether or not the vehicle is allowed to stay in service should be made by a suitably qualified technician.
- DVSA has indicated that they will suspend delayed prohibition action for vehicles which fall under these concessions. The operator is required only to keep on the maintenance file evidence that the defects have been rectified.
- Where prohibitions are issued, depending on the nature of the defect, DVSA may be able to remove the prohibition by electronic submission of a fresh preventative maintenance inspection report and evidence that the defects have been repaired.