Secondary Locking Devices
'The wheels of every heavy goods vehicle shall be fitted with a secondary locking devices.'. [Mr. Knight.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Mr. Greg Knight:
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal):
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
New clause 13Reflective clothing
'The Road Traffic Act 1988 (c.52) is further amended, by inserting after section 16 (wearing of protective headgear):
"16A Wearing of protective clothing
The Secretary of State shall make regulations requiring, subject to such exceptions as may be specified in the regulations, persons driving or riding in motor vehicles of any class specified in the regulations to wear EN471 compliant reflective garments when leaving the vehicle at a roadside, except where the vehicle is parked.".'.
New clause 15Protective headgear for children under 16 riding cycles
'(1) Except as provided by regulations, it is an offence for any person to whom this subsection applies to cause or permit a child under the age of 16 years to ride a cycle on a road unless the child is wearing protective headgear of such description as may be specified in regulations, in such manner as may be so specified.
(2) Subsection (1) above applies to the following persons
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(a) any person who
(i) for the purposes of Part 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (c. 12) has responsibility for the child, or
(ii) for the purposes of article 5 of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (S.I. 1995/755 (NI 2)) has parental responsibilities in relation to the child, or
(iii) in relation to Northern Ireland has care of the child or is, otherwise than by virtue of article 5 of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995, legally obliged to maintain the child, or
(iv) for the purposes of Part 2 of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937 (c. 37) has parental responsibilities (within the meaning given by section 1(3) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (c. 36) (parental responsibilities)) in relation to the child, or has charge or care of the child;
(b) any owner of the cycle, if the owner is above the age of 15 years;
(c) any person other than its owner who has custody of or is in possession of the cycle immediately before the child rides it, if that person is above the age of 15 years;
(d) where the child is employed, his employer and any other person to whose orders the child is subject in the course of his employment.
(3) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) above is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale.'.
New clause 18Amendment of Road Traffic Act 1988
'The Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) is further amended, by inserting after section 80 (approval marks)
"80A Retro-reflective markings
The Secretary of State may by regulations made by statutory instrument require the fitting of retro-reflective tape complying with ECE 104 to international category vehicles N2 and N3 and on goods trailers under the international classification 03 and 04 newly registered in the UK.".'.
New clause 21Amendment of Road Traffic Act 1988
'In section 41 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) (regulation of construction, weight, equipment and use of vehicles), at the end of subsection (2) insert
"(m) for prohibiting the modification or retrofitting to the front of a motor vehicle any equipment which in the opinion of the Secretary of State may render the vehicle more likely to cause injury to a third party in the event of an accident.".'.
New clause 11 may seem to some Members to be dealing with a rather obscure point, but the reference to wheels is to road wheels not steering wheels. Although the provision covers a fairly rare occurrence, it is nevertheless a serious problem that some experts estimate leads to 10 fatalities a year on our roads, when lorries shed not their load but one of their wheels.
I draw the attention of the House to a report in the Daily Express of 23 October 2004. Under the headline, "School run mother of five killed by runaway truck tyre", it stated:
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"A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said its officers were working with Department of Transport vehicle examiners to investigate how the nuts and bolts holding the wheel came free or broke. Several were found at the side of the road close to the spot
where the lorry stopped. Police Sergeant Bryan Hancock said: 'Most incidents we attend would involve some element of driving, but this is something that has happened with the vehicle. We are now carrying out an investigation with our vehicle examiners and the Department of Transport, and a report will be prepared for the coroner.'."
Mr. Mark Louch of the company, Wheelsure, wrote to my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) about the incident and the report in the Daily Express to which I have just referred. The letter stated:
"It is of course inappropriate to comment on the individual circumstances that surround this case. However you should be aware that an incidence such as that described is neither a 'freak' nor 'unexplained phenomenon'. Instead it is highly likely that the wheel-loss has occurred due to vibration nut loosening, an engineering design problem that has beset the transport industry for years. Wheel-nut loosening and wheel loss are frequent occurrences and well known to those who operate professional logistics businesses."
The letter confirms a point I made a few moments ago, adding:
"It is estimated by Brake, the leading Road Safety Charity, that up to 10 fatalities each year are caused by wheels flying off vehicles."
I have first-hand experience of the problem. About eight years ago, I purchased a new set of wheels for a sports vehicle that I owned. As I was approaching junction 10 of the M1, travelling at 70 mph, I suddenly felt a violent vibration from one of the wheels. I managed to stop the vehicle in time and on examining the front wheel I saw that four of the five studs that held it in place had sheered off. It later transpired that that was a wheel design problem and I understand that subsequently the wheel was redesigned. That is not only a frightening experience for the driver, but a dangerous experience for other road users.
Various hon. Members have raised this issue with Ministers over the years. In 1997, it was raised by the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mrs. Clark), who asked
The then Minister replied that the Government were looking into the matter, but
"expect to make these results known by the end of January 1998."[Official Report, 19 December 1997; Vol. 303, c. 353.]
Also in 1997, the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) asked a similar question, and the then Ministerthe hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Glenda Jackson)said:
However, she continued:
"Following joint discussions with the Vehicle Inspectorate and the Association of Chief Police Officers, a nation-wide survey looking at the extent of the problem of wheel detachment from heavy goods vehicles and passenger vehicles was started in February this year."
Of course, that was February 1997. She went on to say:
"The survey has recently finished and the results are being analysed."[Official Report, 10 June 1997; Vol. 295, c. 410.]
We and, I think, the House would like the Minister to tell us what is the present state of play with regard to the analysis of that problem. Are we any nearer establishing the cause of the problem?
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I am lucky enough to own a 1950s Bentley, which is now regarded as a classic car. Bentley, realising that cost was less of a problem when that car was new, designed it so that the wheel nuts on one side loosen the opposite way to those on the other side. Clearly, Bentley had concluded that, with the movement of the car, it would be safer for some nuts to tighten clockwise and some to tighten anticlockwise, so that the movement of the vehicle would not tend to loosen the wheel nuts on one side only. That practice is not widespread today. Certainly most motor cars in production today do not have that extra safety feature present, and all wheel nuts tighten clockwise.
Is that safety feature present on heavy goods vehicles? Perhaps the Minister will tell us. Has the lack of such a feature been identified as the reason for the problem? Is an added problem perhaps that wheel studs become stressed, thus lengthening or fracturing?
We are talking about the loss of life, so we would like a progress report from the Minister. In effect, new clause 11 is probing in nature. I hope that she can reassure the House that the issue is being looked at and that the Government are seeking to reach an early conclusion.