Maintenance systems and procedures

Vehicle maintenance arrangements

Vehicle safety is one of the prime objectives of the operator licensing system. As such, the applicant must satisfy the Traffic Commissioner that there are acceptable arrangements for maintaining vehicles in a fit and serviceable condition, and that these arrangements will not be prejudiced by a lack of financial resources. A suitable maintenance plan must include driver walk around checks plus systematic, thoroughly documented safety inspections at programmed intervals, together with proper procedures for dealing effectively with any faults. Records of these activities must be retained for at least 15 months and the whole system must be supported by capable and responsible staff and adequate maintenance facilities.

The Guide to maintaining roadworthiness, written jointly by Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), Freight Transport Association, Road Haulage Association and the Confederation of Passenger Transport, provides clear advice to operators (particularly those applying for licences for the first time). Call the Member Advice Centre on 0870 60 50 000, who can email a copy to members. Maintenance systems following the guide should be accepted by the Traffic Commissioners as meeting the conditions of O licensing. Operators may depart from the guide’s recommendations but will need to convince the Traffic Commissioner that there is no reduction in standards.

Recommended procedures

Driver walk around checks should normally be carried out by the driver before taking over a new vehicle or trailer, but may be done by other personnel. Such checks do not remove the driver’s responsibilities for thevehicle's condition when on the road. Checks should include such items as the oil levels, brakes, tyres and wheels, lights and reflectors, warning devices, windscreen wipers and washers, mirrors and trailer couplings. The driver must be able to make prompt reports of faults that might adversely affect safe operation. Reports must be recorded in writing by the driver or by someone with responsibility for vehicle condition. There must be procedures for carrying out remedial action and recording it. FTA produces driver report books (C30) to meet this requirement, available from Shopfta.

Although not specifically required in the guide, the completion of ‘nil’ defect reports is strongly recommended. This is where drivers complete and sign a form after every check, even where no defects have been found. This encourages drivers to properly complete their checks every time and may also provide evidence that problems subsequently found in roadside checks happened en route. In the VOSA publication Enforcement Sanctions Policy, VOSA enforcement officers are guided not to issue fixed penalties to drivers if they believe that the problem happened during the journey and/or the driver could not have reasonably detected the defect. Driver walk around checks and defect reporting is one of the most important elements of ensuring road safety, but it can also be one of the most difficult areas to manage. FTA has produced a guide, incorporating ideas from other members – call the Member Advice Centre on 0870 60 50 000 for a copy.

Periodic safety inspections which should cover items affecting vehicle safety and be based on the Heavy Goods Vehicle Inspection Manual produced by VOSA. Inspections should be made at intervals of time and/or mileage. The nature of the business and the type of vehicles will determine the proper intervals. Find out more about FTA's Vehicle Inspection Services.

Even though operators may delegate the maintenance and safety inspection of their vehicles to a third party, they cannot delegate responsibility for ensuring that the vehicles are safe and roadworthy or avoid the consequences if they are not. The condition of a vehicle returned to service is the responsibility of the operator irrespective of who carried out the work. The condition of hired vehicles and trailers is also the direct responsibility of the operator and not the company from which they are hired. FTA and the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association have jointly produced a statement of Best Practice in Commercial Vehicle Rental and Operation which sets out the hire company’s responsibilities to the customer, and the customer’s obligations. Copies can be obtained from FTA.

Maintenance facilities needed depend upon the number, size and type of vehicles and the range of work. It must be possible to properly inspect the vehicles. Ramps, hoists or pits will usually be needed but are not always necessary if the vehicles have sufficient ground clearance. Equipment for measuring brake efficiency, headlight settings and exhaust smoke levels is not essential although it is obviously an advantage.

Staff making safety inspections must be aware of acceptable performance standards, and be able to recognise faults and assess their significance. They must be familiar with permitted limits of wear and tolerance for components and be able to advise on serviceability. FTA's Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS) is recognised by Traffic Commissioners as meeting these requirements and VIS staff are available to provide advice to members.

Please note:

Documented records for each vehicle must be kept for at least 15 months and should record all safety inspections and drivers’ defect reports together with details of remedial work. View the full range of maintenance forms for this purpose.

The vehicle operator is responsible for the maintenance of the records even if the work is done by outside agents.

Need more information?

If you are an FTA member and have a query regarding this topic, or need more information, contact our Member Advice Centre

Member Advice Centre