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Heavy vehicle horrors

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Features, Vehicle testing

DVSA is responsible for carrying out the annual tests on nearly 1 million heavy vehicles per year. Our 500 testers work from a range of private Authorised Testing Facilities (ATFs) around the country.

Like MOT testers, they make sure vehicles are safe to drive and protect the public from dangerous or defective vehicles. And like them, they find more than their fair share of vehicle horror stories on unsafe lorries, buses and coaches.

DVSA Vehicle Standards Assessor Jim Bithell takes up the story on some vehicles that have failed as a result of lazy labour.

Bodged bolt

a bolt holding the rear passenger side suspension leaf spring in place being fixed in by glue.

Anyone who’s ever built flat pack furniture knows how to put a bolt in.

But this Passenger Service Vehicle (PSV) operator, decided – for a change – to use glue to fix the bolt holding the rear passenger side suspension leaf spring in place.

Yes, that’s right, glue. On a bus or coach used to carry passengers.

The glue didn’t set, and the bolt fell out while it was being inspected! This would compromise the security of the suspension which may lead to a loss of control of the vehicle. Also, if the bolt had been ejected at speed it may have resulted in a serious/fatal injury to other road users or pedestrians.


Wheely bad

a crack in wheel next to holding bolt

You’d expect a vehicle operator to know the condition of their vehicle. Drivers should also pick up any issues on the daily walkround check of the truck.

Not in this case.

While the paintwork looks untidy and there are signs of rust, the condition of the defect would appear to be longstanding. The crack could have caused the wheel to become insecure. If it happened when the vehicle was moving, the consequences could be deadly….

Braking bad

severely corroded brakes

The operator of this tri-axle semi-trailer, part of a 38 tonnes gross vehicle, obviously didn’t want it stopping in a hurry.

38 tonnes takes a lot of stopping. So, your brakes need to be in top condition.

In this case, out of its 6 brake chambers, 4 of were extremely corroded and had started to break up in places. They were ready to fail completely, and the trailer could have instantly lost brakes to 4 out of 6 wheels with the obvious potential for a nasty outcome.

Tired tank

severely corroded air brake tank only being held on by one strap

Driver: “Strap must have broken on the way here”

DVSA: “Has the tank corroded to that extent on the way here too?”

Just to be clear, this is an air tank for brakes. At high pressure. It’s held on by one strap and is rusting away.

None of us would like to imagine what would have happened if it had fallen off – even if the vehicle wasn’t moving.

AD ahhhh!

a broken electric earth cable

ADR is the European Treaty covering the transport of dangerous loads and this was in for a dangerous goods test.

Vehicles running to this standard probably should avoid driving around with a broken and exposed electric earth cable. This could cause a spark and ignite any leaking fuel or cargo.

Spring sprung

a broken leaf spring

I’d last seen this trailer 12 months previously - almost to the day.

I had to prohibit it for a broken leaf spring.

It came back again a year later. With the same presenter/mechanic.

I found the same problem. But on a different leaf spring this time.

You can see by the colour of the metal it’d been broken for a long while! The tin retaining loop was holding the whole side in place.

At least the presenter knew what to do when I issued a prohibition again!


a corroded exhaust joint with new section

I failed this vehicle – from a main dealer - in the morning for a couple of defects, one being the holes in the exhaust.

It came back for retest the same afternoon. The driver was a bit reluctant to put it over the inspection pit.

“You can just bend down mate. You’ll see the new bit, it’s all shiny.”

I asked him to put it over the inspection pit as I wasn’t going to crawl all over the floor, and I needed a proper look.

It turns out that, as a main dealer, they had the failed section of exhaust in stock. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a replacement for the part that fell to bits when they replaced it!

Unbelievably, they thought they’d try it on anyway…

I and my colleagues test heavy vehicles every day of the year to help keep Britain's roads safe. Most pass their annual test. But we’re able to pick up on the dangerous ones, fail them and prevent them from causing harm to other road users.

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  1. Comment by Steve armstrong posted on

    If random visits were made to all OL holders and any faults found, then give an on the spot fines to the company. This would eliminate the driver transport manager arguments, eg if you dont take it you know where the gate is scenario.

  2. Comment by Whizza posted on

    I could point you to a few companies that i have worked at where the drivers idea of a daily walk around check consists of making a cup of tea or coffee, sit and drink it, fill defect book as nil found and hit the road. Pure laziness

  3. Comment by C Turner posted on

    I'm a senior vehicle examiner for a large bus company, and I have shared these with all of the examiners on my team. We're all horrified at some of these problems, many of which shouldn't be there and should have been detected and rectified before going for test. On the example with the glued spring bolt, that's clearly laziness and nothing more. That particular spring appears to be from a Dennis Dart or ADL Enviro 200/300: vehicles with well known history of spring issues, particularly on the rear. The bolt which has been glued should come down from the top, but I suspect whoever did this couldn't be bothered removing the air bag pedestal in order to fit the bolt properly.

  4. Comment by Eddie Harper MBE posted on

    I have not had trucks for some years and after starting DCPC Training in 2009 these sort of cases are good to show drivers. However I have just retired but majority of drivers cannot believe it happens and question why these people are allowed back on the road as it gives the haulage industry and them bad name.

  5. Comment by Robert Layton posted on

    Great that these checks are being performed. My concern is, as a professional driver myself for over 20years, whose responsible for the state of our roads and why are they not held to account? I'm like most drivers of large vehicles, dodging pot holes, overgrown hedges that can easily smash windscreens,break mirrors, subsidence on the side of the road a classic example being on the A40 between Ross and Gloucester just past the may hill turn. Anyone not expecting that is in serious trouble! But nothing ever seems to get noticed and or reported for these issues. Thankfully there's a lot of very good professional drivers out there capable of avoiding these obstacles on a daily basis.

    • Replies to Robert Layton>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Robert
      Pot holes can take a toll on vehicles. Report those on main A roads and motorways to Highways England: If they are on smaller and local roads, you can contact the local council/unitary authority concerned.

  6. Comment by S J P posted on

    The recent incident of a coach with 20 year old tyres is just another unbelievable example.

  7. Comment by Car Analytics posted on

    These vehicles are serious threat out there in the roads. Will they be found out in MOT tests and made fail? Then when buying used cars MOT reports show up with number plate check. Could such things be found out with MOT reports?

    • Replies to Car Analytics>

      Comment by Rob Webb (DVSA) posted on


      These were defects picked up in the annual test, so yes - the vehicles concerned failed.


  8. Comment by Timmo posted on

    Great work, disappointing to hear about repeat offenders. Is there nothing you can do to keep a check on these cowboys before they have chance to do the same again. Maybe not leave it year between checks??

  9. Comment by Simon Smith posted on

    Would it be fair to say that not all operators/drivers are mechanically minded and put there trust upon the guys who maintain/inspect the vehicles every 6 weeks, one photo was an issue presented for test from a main dealer not a back street garage, the operator there is meeting the requirements of his O licence but the main dealer is presenting the vehicle for a RE-TEST still with issues, surely the operator is not at fault there!!

    • Replies to Simon Smith>

      Comment by James Adcroft posted on

      Interesting point Simon. There is no escaping your responsibilities for maintenance as a Transport Manager. However, I think we are seeing an increase in Transport Managers who don't have good maintenance knowledge and, therefore, too reliant on technicians. I wonder if some mandatory basic training (on maintenance) for TM's should be introduced?

    • Replies to Simon Smith>

      Comment by Robert Cook posted on

      I agree. It's not as if the operator is trying to do things on the cheap. Quite the opposite in fact. You'd think that the operator was trying to be squeaky clean but he is still in trouble. Out in the real world one would say that he had done his utmost by going to the dealer. This is a case for some discretion.

  10. Comment by Afzal posted on

    No doubt DVSA is doing great job to stop these vehicles , but it is worrying to know that these vehicles were operating on public road weeks and months prior to their inspection.

  11. Comment by Parry Davis posted on

    It would be good to see some similar comments on non-UK motors and defects found at road-side checks.

    • Replies to Parry Davis>

      Comment by Jay posted on

      The majority of vehicles coming in from continental Europe are in fairly new condition - you couldn't risk a breakdown far from home !

  12. Comment by Raymond white posted on

    The problem I see is not enough checks are carried out.those highlighted are only a few that's been caught. There are many bonfide hauiers that Look after their fleets..others do not and put their drivers and the public at risk all for a few extra pounds they think.prevention is better than cure. I would bring in a maintenance book to be carried on every vehicle.with a record of every job carried aircraft have to.and including what drivers have reported. Those not complying..will lose their O licence for a minor.,and taken of the road for lets say a month,.and total loss for second offence.

    • Replies to Raymond white>

      Comment by John Steward posted on

      You are out of touch, we allready have to keep records of all inspections, defects during service and work done !

  13. Comment by Sean Davis posted on

    I cannot believe that operators would even think of sending these for test,
    stupid to think they could get away with it, I don't make a lot of money at the job but at least my trucks /trailers are up to standard, any defects done asap.

  14. Comment by Les Reed posted on

    Are we to assume that the rusted away air chambers only became that way since last year?
    Not very likely - given the degree of rusting (unless they were driving/being parked in salt-laden circumstances every day).
    Makes you question what they were like last year

  15. Comment by geoff posted on

    Great work. These operators need stopping daily until they see the error of their ways.

  16. Comment by Neil Carney posted on

    I`ve snatched this and transferred it to Power Point to add to my DCPC training if that is ok with DVSA. I have found it is ok talking about vehicle defects as a subject on a Walk Round Check presentation but this certainly goes a long way to emphasising the importance of this every day duty,

    • Replies to Neil Carney>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Neil
      This information is in the public domain so you can use it, but would be good if you can credit this to DVSA and our VSA.

      • Replies to Julia (DVSA)>

        Comment by Neil Carney posted on

        Thank you Julia. I will certainly credit DVSA and VSA when I use this on presentations.

        Neil Carney

  17. Comment by Julie Davies posted on

    Recently held a safety stand down on a contract reminding the operatives the importance of daily walk road checks, and vehicle maintenance. Would be horrified if any of our vehicles turned up for inspection or MOT with these kind of problems. Great eye opening pictures.

    • Replies to Julie Davies>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Julie
      It's great to see you're getting the information out there.

  18. Comment by Jon Fountain posted on

    some of these items were probably in doubt twelve months ago .I would suggest investigating the previous testers ability to identify severely corroded items .

  19. Comment by Ed Preston posted on

    We run 7 units with 35 trailers half of them custom built for agricultural work to run beside a harvester and it costs a fortune to make sure they are all inspected every 6 weeks, anything that needs rectifying is done to make sure they are safe and in top order, then you see what other companies get up to and it makes you wonder if they sleep at night.
    I know it costs money to keep these thing on the road but my name is on the ticket and when I send a vehicle out on the road I want it to be right.
    Get these muppets off the road.

  20. Comment by Matthew james posted on

    obvious question, why don't these holders of OL have a "Pre" mot inspection over and above their mandatory 6/8 weekly inspections.

    I assume on presenting such vehicles, your mobile officers are going to "visit" the premises to carry out a review of their record keeping for this and any other vehicles?

    I would also conclude that these failed vehicles would negatively alter their OCR giving rise for their vehicles to be inspected at the roadside more regularly?

  21. Comment by Don Stewar posted on

    They should have there operators license taken away and never given one again . If one of mine was like that’s what I would many other corners are they cutting

  22. Comment by Don posted on

    Now these who operate like this, no standards and should not be on the road and or granted an O Licence, these are also the ones who complain about the DVSA, lick them up thank you for everyone’s safety

  23. Comment by Henry Graham posted on

    For me getting this information sent to us is a fantastic training, aide and emphasises the importance starting with drivers carrying out there daily vehicle & trailer checks. As someone else mentioned it tends to be the innocent parties that are injured. Keep up the good work

  24. Comment by Robert Thomson posted on

    Keep it up Folks you are doing a great Job.
    I have now given up my lorries after several years of trading and tried to keep
    them in good condition, But looking at these photo's not everyone is doing the same.

  25. Comment by S Fairley posted on

    Never happy seeing this, I can understand missing a issue on a weekly inspection, but to present a motor for mot like this, they need suspending.
    Annoying that we run straight and some cut every corner and my be working along side us for the same money.

  26. Comment by i imisson posted on

    i think you do a fantastic job and prevent a lot of serious accidents.would these people still run said vehicles if their families were put at risk.

  27. Comment by keith swales posted on

    unbeleaveable,they should be locked up.

  28. Comment by Barbara J Smith posted on

    Keep on naming and shaming, these people should not be allowed on the road. Make sure you keep up the good work and clamp down on these offenders.

    It is often not these people who get into trouble it is the other drivers who get injured or worst killed due to these people being on the road in the first place.

  29. Comment by Jim Wright FCILT posted on

    Wow thank god for our strict regime in regard to our HGV fleets some great pictures and an eye opener