Vehicle and Operator Services Agency: Enforcement of regulations on commercial vehicles - Public Accounts Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

1.  We are concerned that the Agency has not done enough to address the risks to safety posed by foreign HGVs on our roads. While the Department is funding a three year programme to target such vehicles, a more sustained effort is required. The Department and Agency should prepare an action plan to set out what they will do to focus greater enforcement activity on foreign operators when the present High Risk Traffic Initiative expires in 2011.

2.  The Department should have done more sooner to ensure that the Agency had access to information in HM Revenue and Customs' Freight Targeting Database which would give it critical intelligence about vehicles arriving in Great Britain from mainland Europe. After several years the Agency still has not negotiated access to the database. The Department and the Agency should reach agreement with HM Revenue and Customs urgently to share information held on vehicles, taking appropriate regard of data protection requirements. If necessary, this should be by direct contact between the respective Permanent Secretaries.

3.  It is unacceptable that the Agency is currently unable to access all ports where it could best inspect high risk vehicles before they enter Great Britain. The Agency is negotiating a memorandum of understanding with the British Ports Association to establish its access conditions. If these negotiations do not have a successful outcome in the near future, the Department and Agency should identify and implement other means to get access to all ports in Great Britain.

4.  It is unsatisfactory that some European Member States do not cooperate with the Agency by sharing data about British operators found to be non-compliant when travelling abroad. Such information would help the Agency to form a more complete view of the risks posed by these operators. The Agency should investigate the reasons why individual Member States do not provide data on non-compliant British operators and take steps to secure greater cooperation.

5.  The Agency's risk scoring system is not accurate enough to be truly effective in helping it to target its inspections on the riskiest operators. The Agency should revise its risk scoring system so that:

  • it draws on data on vehicle type and condition to give a better indication of the risk posed by operators, and
  • the scores better reflect the assessed risks to road safety from factors such as overloaded vehicles or defective steering.

6.  The Agency has not always located its checksites in the best places or made full use of them. The Agency should review the location of its checksites across Great Britain, based on factors such as road safety risk and commercial traffic flow, including rural routes directed by satellite navigation systems. It should then produce a business case for relocating sites as appropriate so that examiners can stop high risk vehicles at the most effective locations on the road network.

7.  The Agency's performance targets assign low priority to operator visits which risks discouraging staff from carrying them out. It has, however, begun to visit persistently non-compliant operators at their premises in an attempt to address the causes of their non-compliance. The Agency should adjust its performance targets so that staff are properly incentivised to undertake operator visits.

8.  Solutions to many of the current problems await the Department's HGV Compliance Strategy. Once finalised, the Department should share its strategy with the National Audit Office so that it can confirm that the strategy tackles the relevant issues and, if appropriate, can report back to us.

9.  We are concerned that foreign lorries use our roads and cause accidents here but, unlike British lorries, do not pay any tax. The Department should work with the Treasury to reduce this imbalance and find a way for foreign lorries to pay for their keep on our roads.

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Prepared 11 March 2010