Institute of Transport Administration

Educating Transport Management since 1944


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Are your vehicles getting the best service?

25 Oct 2019

Traffic Commissioner Kevin Rooney talks about the consequences of having a poor maintenance contractor

Do you have a competent, effective and accountable maintenance contractor to keep your vehicles roadworthy?

As a compliant operator or transport manager, I’m confident that you do.

For traffic commissioners, the service your contractor provides is absolutely critical to the promises you’ve made to us.

That means their performance has a direct impact on your compliance record.

What can you do?

DVSA’s Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness contains helpful advice on what you should do when contracting out maintenance arrangements. You can check:

  • there are well lit, weatherproof facilities including a pit or lift
  • there is access to a roller brake tester and, for goods vehicles and trailers, means of loading
  • inspectors have relevant technical qualifications which may include IRTEC (Inspection Technician Accreditation) or similar
  • the contractor has an inspection manual and up-to-date inspection sheets
  • inspection records are complete and any patterns of faults are proactively discussed

You can also invite a technically competent third party to periodically re-inspect or undertake a safety inspection and provide reassurances.

What happens when it goes wrong?

At public inquiry, I’ve dealt with plenty of cases where operators were badly served by their maintenance contractor. But I always point out to the licence holder and transport manager that it’s still their responsibility to oversee the provider.

What’s worrying is there are usually plenty of warning signs to raise concerns about a contractor’s performance.

In a recent case, DVSA picked up a loose wheel nut during a fleet inspection. What concerned me was that it had been marked as rectified by the contractor the day before.

On top of this, the PMI record showed the near side axle 2 had loose wheel nuts but an invoice for the work referred to the re-torquing of the off side.

atest4There was also an MOT failure for service brake performance, with advisories on lamps, oil leaks and brake components. An invoice indicated the vehicle had a brake test before the MOT.

Without brake printouts to examine, I found it hard to see why the vehicle went on to fail the MOT for brake performance.

When I looked at a PMI carried out by the contractor prior to the MOT, it indicated that a lamp was re-secured, a slack-adjuster was replaced and the brakes were cleaned and adjusted. This suggested the vehicle went through the MOT without a full inspection.


I revoked the firm’s licence because it failed to meet the financial standing requirements.

But I also made clear to the business that if they’d kept the licence, it would have been suspended until the vehicle was inspected by a competent maintenance provider, signed off as roadworthy and put through a successful brake test.