Facts and figures

Killer facts and figures about road safety

The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency conducts statutory annual tests for Heavy Goods Vehicles and Public Service Vehicles at 91 VOSA test stations and private sector owned approved testing premises.

  • Almost four in ten (38.9%) heavy goods vehicles failed their first test in 2004/05.

  • Nearly three in ten (26.7%) public service vehicles, ie those licensed to carry (normally nine or more) fare-paying passengers failed their first test in 2005/05.

  • In 2005, 11,162 accidents involved HGVs; 1,098 of them were foreign registered vehicles

  • In 2003, the estimated cost of insurance claims for commercial vehicles (including fleet) was £2,052m.

For more statistics, Google: ‘Vosa effectiveness report 2004-2005’ and ‘DfT accident statistics’

Enforcement saves lives and money

Road safety logoAlmost 40 per cent of heavy goods vehicles fail their annual test at first presentation, with around 25 per cent of vehicles leaving the test station with a fail. The others were able to correct minor fail items on site. Unlike private cars, HGVs are run by professional licensed operators who are required to have effective maintenance systems in place.

HGVs only pay for around 59-69 per cent of the full costs they impose on society. These costs include: accidents and deaths, greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, noise, congestion and delays.

A 40-ton, five-axle lorry causes over 10,000 times more damage to road surfaces than an average car.

In July 2006, VOSA and the Highways Agency launched a pilot project to carry out roadside checks on HGVs on international journeys. One third of all critical incidents in the south east involve HGVs. The economic cost of non-compliant HGVS on the south east network is approximately £20m.

The south east was identified as a starting point because this is where such traffic is greatest, so associated problems such as road safety, road wear, competition and congestion issues are most acute.

In one day, of the 63 vehicles that were stopped, 41 received mechanical prohibitions, 23 of which were delayed while 18 were immediate (brakes and tyres were most at fault). Forty-four drivers were checked, with 12 receiving drivers' hours prohibitions, while two further prohibitions were issued for other offences.

The pilot will also allow details of vehicles on international journeys to be added to VOSA's database, which will lead to improved targeting of those operators who continue to flout the regulations.

Driver tiredness is one of the biggest killers on our roads, particularly on motorways and other monotonous roads where it causes one in five crashes. About four in ten tiredness-related crashes involve someone driving a commercial vehicle.

Skills shortage in vehicle mechanics

A modern heavy vehicle has the potential to become a 44 ton lethal weapon that can be maintained by anyone, irrespective of their competence. So the key question when a vehicle fails its test is: "Has the maintenance work been carried out by a trained/qualified fitter?"

Research by the Department for Education and Skills showed that, more than any other vocational occupation, there was a serious skill deficiency in the area of vehicle mechanics that could result in market failure.

As technology advances, the skills gap problem will only increase. Two of the top four occupations which would respond to individual licensing, similar to the Corgi gas fitter scheme, were vehicle mechanic and rail infrastructure maintenance workers. The report also claimed that the cost of implementing such a licensing scheme would be outweighed by savings to the economy.

VOSA's skills base - the envy of private companies

Through its policy of recruiting the best engineers and specialists, VOSA's skills base is the envy of private companies. In addition, unions have consistently pressed management to maintain and improve VOSA's highly regarded apprenticeship scheme. Would a private operator want to continue this investment or would skills and training be the first to go when they are looking to trim their costs and increase their profits? Would this considerable investment be recorded in VOSA's sale price?

A tachograph combines the functions of a clock and a speedometer. Fitted to a motor vehicle, a tachograph will record not only the vehicle's speed but also the length of time that it is moving or stationary.

In September 2006, European traffic examiners met in Yorkshire to review the implementation of digital tachographs within the UK and to compare the progress made with that of other member states.

Goedele Van Kerschaever, co-ordinator of Euro Controle Route, responsible for harmonising checking practices across the continent, said: "...the United Kingdom, France and Austria are among the leaders in having introduced new technical reading equipment. We found that British examiners are the best trained inspectors with regards to regulations, new hardware and software."