Are your maintenance procedures fit for purpose?

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As an operator, are you confident that your maintenance standards are at an acceptable level?

An area of compliance that we find many operators falling down on when we carry out independent maintenance audits is ensuring that daily walk-round checks and defect reporting are given the importance they deserve, not forgetting to ensure that the intervals between safety inspections are not compromised.

While adequate procedures are often found to be in place it is their satisfactory implementation that seems to be the problem.

Operators must not only introduce procedures, they must make sure that they are both understood and also followed by every member of the staff, if the compliance needs are to be adhered to.

What’s more, if you are an operator that uses third party maintenance contractors to carry out safety inspections, you must make sure that you leave them in no doubt that you will never accept any changes to your forward plan of safety inspection dates. If you have submitted a licence application stating you would like the Traffic Commissioner to grant six weekly safety inspections for your vehicles you cannot ever afford to be fobbed off by a workshop that would rather you waited to send your trucks in until when it suits them.

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An agreed six weekly interval period means a MAXIMUM interval between safety inspections of 6 weeks and no more. So, never be in any doubt that if you let your agreed interval over-run more than the agreed interval at any time you will be failing to keep one of the obligations you entered into with the Traffic Commissioner when the licence was granted. So, take control from day one and don’t ever let go. Or, your licence to operate won’t last for long!

Walk-round checks

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It should be common knowledge to operators and transport managers that every professional driver has a responsibility to make sure that the vehicle that they are assigned to is safe before they take it out onto the public highway.

Not to do so is ‘gross misconduct’ and it is essential that the operator takes the appropriate disciplinary action should it ever be found that a driver is failing to adhere to the walk round check and defect reporting procedures that are in place.

Every driver must carry out an effective walk-round check on a daily basis and this must never be allowed to lapse.

It’s vital that the operator and the transport manager involve the driver from day one and keep him onside and make him aware just how important his role is. It’s not just driving a truck that the driver is employed to do, he is taking a big and very expensive vehicle out onto the public highway day after day while being a professional driver on a road of ‘amateur’ drivers, which means making sure that everything to do with that vehicle is safe before going out onto the public highway.

Defect reporting

If an operator is to be satisfied that his or her maintenance standards are correct and appropriate it is essential that drivers not only carry out daily walk-round checks on their vehicles, but that they also report in writing every defect or symptom of a defect that they find, however minor it may seem to them. Then each defect or symptom of a defect must be dealt with appropriately and that must be reported in writing as well.

Even a blown bulb that a driver personally replaces at the start of a daily driving period should nonetheless be reported in writing and can then be signed off as rectified by the driver. To make sure that the vehicle has a true and complete maintenance record it is vital that such defects are noted and stored within the maintenance file for the vehicle.

What’s more, if a tyre blows out on the road and is replaced by a tyre company sending out a fitter and new tyre, that should be written out as a defect and rectification at the roadside if the operator and the driver are to comply.

If not the maintenance history of the vehicle will be flawed and the operator could miss something important.

Preventative Maintenance Inspections (PMI)

When the operator licence is authorised the Traffic Commissioner specifies the interval period that is the maximum amount of time that can elapse between preventative maintenance inspections. Again, never ever forget that the optimum word here is MAXIMUM interval!

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When we carry out maintenance audits it is unfortunately quite common for an operator to be non-compliant, simply because they have allowed themselves to be coerced into extending the period between PMI’s by their third party maintenance contractor.

I don’t want to seem to be anti-maintenance provider, but what is often forgotten is that it is not the third party maintenance contractor that has made an agreement with the Traffic Commissioner, it is the Operator. So, when you’re sitting in front of the Commissioner after being called in to Public Inquiry don’t expect the third party maintenance contractor to have action taken against them………it is you, the operator, that will be in the firing line!

Just to make matters worse and taking into account the information in the previous paragraphs, if the operator doesn’t have in place and follow a walk-round check and defect reporting procedure that can be shown to match up with the safety inspections……….then the fall out will be even worse for the operator! Never become complacent, keep checking your procedures and spot-checking your systems, just to make sure nothing gets past you that could lead to problems.

Produce, implement and follow compliance procedures

Read through the DVSA Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness and make sure that you understand your own fleet and how it should be maintained, then put together your own systems, practices and procedures and follow them!

If you need any help with compliance

………………. contact Truck UK on 0800 644 87 87