The union Unite says that 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 represents tens of thousands of lorry drivers and made the shocking discovery after a Freedom of Information request.
They say that the lack of lorry inspections would be alarming in normal circumstances, but these concerns are heightened following the government’s decision to relax the cabotage rules in October.
The new rules allow lorries registered anywhere in the world to make an unlimited number of collections and deliveries during a 14-day period in the UK.
Now the union says that the only way that vehicles taking advantage of the relaxed cabotage regulations can be checked to ensure they are roadworthy – and that the driver is following the lorry driving regulations – is through an on-the-spot inspection.
‘On-the-spot inspections of lorries and HGV drivers are vanishingly rare’
The union‘s 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.”
In total, there were 114,653 on-the-spot inspections made by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) in 2020/21 to check on the roadworthiness of their lorries and if the driver is abiding by the HGV driving regulations.
The number of on-the-spot inspections carried out by the DVSA has declined by 39% since 201/17 when 186,460 were undertaken.
10,066 billion miles of journeys
In contrast, the Department for Transport recorded that GB-registered lorries undertook a staggering 10,066 billion miles of journeys in 2020.
This means that an on-the-spot inspection of an HGV only occurs, on average, once every 87,797 miles, which equates to a lorry driving three and half times around the earth without being stopped and inspected.
Unite’s national officer, Adrian Jones, said: “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.”
He added: “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.”
‘Protect everyone from unsafe vehicles’
A spokesperson for the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency said: “Our priority is to protect everyone from unsafe vehicles and drivers.
“The reduction in the volume of inspections is a deliberate and known consequence of our increasingly intelligence-led approach.”
They added: “New technology and techniques available to DVSA mean we can target the serially and seriously non-compliant more effectively than in earlier years, and we focus on the most serious defects and offences with a view to keeping Britain’s roads among the safest in the world.”