We anonymously surveyed UK and Ireland HGV drivers about the frequency they carry out walkaround checks. Such checks are part of the commitment an operator makes in order to receive a license and an important part of ongoing compliance. But it’s actually drivers who are responsible for the state of the vehicle they drive.
So walkaround checks should be a part of every driver’s pre-journey routine. But, it seems all too frequently they are missed. And at what cost?
We surveyed over 500 UK and Ireland based drivers, asking how often they carry out daily walkaround checks. Somewhat shockingly almost 40% (39.3%) of drivers responded ‘I never do checks’, with a further 15.8% saying they rarely complete checks.
So, over half of those surveyed (55.1%) do not regularly carry out the walkaround checks which are their responsibility.
Just 29.4% of drivers told us that they always complete checks, with 15.5% saying they usually do them.
Completing daily checks means drivers and fleet operators are constantly aware of, and up to date with, the state of their vehicle(s). The DVSA report that 85% of lorry defects can be picked up during a walkaround check. Very often these defects are quickly and inexpensively solved.
But leaving the depot with a defective vehicle is storing up trouble – and in many cases, danger. Problems don’t disappear on their own and driving a vehicle that isn’t fully functional is putting the driver, the operator and other road users at risk.
Although most vehicles on our roads are safe, sadly there are many which are a liability. In 2019, the DVSA caught 38,712 serious defects and traffic offences on UK roads. Many of these led to fines, prosecutions, and other sanctions. Many would have been avoided with a simple check. Inspectors and enforcement personnel will also demand evidence of regular checks which have been adequately carried out.
Whilst not all defects are as bad as those in the DVSA Inspectors’ ‘dishonours list’, driving a defective or unsafe HGV can have serious consequences. Drivers can receive an unlimited fine and even a prison sentence for using an HGV in a dangerous condition. Clearly, vehicles in such a state haven’t been checked regularly and will require significant and expensive repair.
Thorough checks may seem pointless to drivers who feel they know their vehicles inside out. Drivers may feel they’re on a tight schedule and the check is an unnecessary delay. But even when the same driver takes the vehicle out consecutive days, checks should be completed. One driver told us that he takes this responsibility seriously: “I always do checks. I’m the only person who drives the truck but make sure it’s all in order.”
For drivers who change between vehicles, something as simple as checking and recording the height of a vehicle means avoiding being one of around 2000 bridge strikes each year. Checking tyres makes dangerous blowouts less likely, checking fluids minimises breakdown risk. It’s not rocket science. But it’s important.
There are many tools and systems to ensure drivers understand the importance of checks and take responsibility for doing them to a high standard. There’s also an important responsibility for operators to ensure systems are in place for defect reporting and rectifying. All responsible HGV operators will want their drivers to be in the ‘I always complete’ checks category.
In the event of an accident, incident, or being pulled over by an enforcement agency, evidence of adequate walkaround vehicle checks will be sought. Lack of evidence could lead to insurance issues in the event of a claim or pay-out. In this circumstance, both the driver and the operator can be liable.
In our next blog, we’ll discuss more research on the processes HGV operators use to ensure walkaround vehicle checks are implemented and recorded, and look at the benefits of a robust and carefully managed process.