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January 8, 2010

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Agency failing to educate on road safety

The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) is removing more and

more dangerous commercial vehicles from the roads but does not have a

comprehensive education programme for operators or drivers.

The number of such vehicles the agency removed from Britain’s roads increased from 28,900 in 2007-08 to 36,500 in 2008-09 — a trend described as “reassuring” by the National Audit Office, in a report on VOSA published on 8 January.

However, the report found that the agency’s performance against government targets varies widely across the country. The NAO also found that VOSA’s approach of roadside inspections and visits to operators’ premises is most effective in identifying vehicles that fail regulations of roadworthiness rather than traffic offences committed by drivers, which present a greater risk to road safety.

The lack of a comprehensive education programme means the agency is failing to take full advantage of its enforcement activities to educate commercial-vehicle drivers and operators to tackle the causes of non-compliance — something the NAO wants to see change.

The report also recommends that VOSA develop an action to identify and address the biggest risks to road safety posed by commercial vehicles. The NAO says the plan should address:
€ᄁ the deployment of staff flexibly around the country, including the costs and benefits of such restructuring;
€ᄁ enhancing its work with other agencies, who may be better placed to spot driver/operator behaviour that could lead to accidents, or to carry out checks on certain groups of drivers and operators; and
€ᄁ more effective locations for check sites on the road network.

The NAO also believes that VOSA’s effectiveness at targeting risky commercial vehicles entering the country would be improved if it were to set up formal data-sharing arrangements with HM Revenue and Customs.

Commenting on the report’s findings, head of the NAO, Amyas Morse, said: “VOSA needs to focus its resources on those activities and areas where it can have most impact — for example, by looking at where its staff and stopping sites are located around the country.

“It needs to help educate commercial drivers and properly identify those vehicles that pose the greatest danger. It also needs to work with other organisations, at home and abroad, to ensure that drivers and vehicles from outside the UK are as safe as those from within the UK.”

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at RoSPA, told SHP that educating management in road risk is key. “The idea of VOSA also educating drivers is a good recommendation, but very often it is the managers and operators who also need educating about their responsibilities,” explained Clinton.

“Therefore, we would also recommend that VOSA works closely with the Health and Safety Executive and other organisations to get the message across to managers. As with other issues, managing occupational road risk must start with management and include things like driver training, route planning, and scheduling.”

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