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British trade union “shocked” over “vanishingly rare” lorry inspections

Trade union Unite has expressed shock over the lack of lorry spot checks in the UK after its freedom of information request revealed an on-the-spot inspection of an HGV only occurs on average once every 87,797 miles.

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According to the trade union, this means a UK based lorry can, on average, travel the equivalent of three and a half times around the world without expecting to undergo an on-the-spot check.

The union states that the lack of inspections would be alarming in normal circumstances, but stresses that these concerns “are greatly heightened” following the government’s decision to significantly relax cabotage rules in October. Unite adds that spot checks are the only way to monitor compliance among the foreign hauliers taking advantage of the extra cabotage allowance.

Commenting on the findings of Unite’s freedom of information request, general secretary Sharon Graham said:

“These figures are alarming and demonstrate that on-the-spot inspections of lorries and HGV drivers are vanishingly rare on the UK’s roads. This has serious safety implications and the government needs to be explaining how it ensures that all lorries and HGV drivers on the UK’s roads are doing so safely and abiding by the law.”

The freedom of information request revealed that in total, there were 114,653 on-the-spot inspections made by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) in 2020/21. The figures thus show that the number of on-the-spot inspections carried out by the DVSA has declined by 39% since 2016/17 when 186,460 were undertaken.

Unite national officer Adrian Jones said the lack of spot checks has “enormous safety implications for all road users”:

“Our professional lorry driver members, who abide by the rules, will be shocked by these figures. An unsafe lorry or a driver failing to follow the driving regulations has enormous safety implications for all road users. All road users should be seeking urgent reassurances that the companies who are taking advantage of the relaxation on the cabotage rules are doing so safely and complying with the law.”

The release of the figures comes as several other European countries are toughening up rules on cabotage and increasing the amount of spot checks. In Sweden for example, fines for cabotage violations have been increased by as much as 50%.