Brake performance testing plays a key part in an operator’s vehicle maintenance regime, yet industry regulators are increasingly finding that many licence holders barely meet the minimum standards of these checks.

As a result the DVSA and Traffic Commissioners of Great Britain are now urging the industry to change its attitude to brake testing.

Investigations by enforcement officers are discovering that poor brake testing, or the absence of any brake testing at all is appearing ‘far too frequently’ across the board, and a collective effort is required to address the significant road safety risks this imposes.

In 2015 a 32 tonne tipper was involved in a road traffic accident in Bath after the vehicle’s brakes failed on a steep hill, causing the death of four people. An investigation by the DVSA found that the company’s approach to brake testing was far below the required standards and on five out of thirteen safety inspection records the operator left the brake test section blank.

In spite of the clear lessons to be learned from the case above, regulators argue that operators are just paying lip service to brake performance testing and are recording little to no information on the brake test to offer a meaningful assessment, whilst also failing to carry out testing at the required frequency. At recent public inquiry cases Traffic Commissioners have seen an operator with “not applicable” written in the brake test section of every PMI, as well as a vehicle with a brake defect which a DVSA examiner identified as having been used for the whole week, despite the driver making note of the defect during daily checks.

In its most recent Fleet Compliance Checks survey, DVSA has identified braking issues as the most common type of defect across all vehicles in both British and foreign trucks, with brake-related issues accounting for 28% of mechanical defects in in British HGVs, and 33% in foreign HGVs.

Routine safety inspections are required for vehicles on a regular basis, and a braking test should form part of the safety inspection. Where possible you should test a vehicle and trailer laden to get meaningful results and use a calibrated roller tester to measure individual brake performance and overall braking efficiency. If the test shows that the brakes are not working properly then the vehicle or trailer is not roadworthy.

If you discover any braking performance problems while using a vehicle or trailer you need to get a measured brake efficiency test which must confirm that the brakes are performing satisfactorily prior to you using the vehicle again.

If you are an operator in need of legal representation at a public inquiry contact our expert transport lawyers on 0115 910 6239