Top myths about DVSA roadside enforcement


Every job has them.

Those niggling misconceptions often fed by people’s prejudices or misunderstandings.

DVSA's roadside enforcement work is no different.

Mark Horton heard them all when he was a frontline enforcement officer. Now he's in a management role, he often hears the same untruths at seminars and conferences.

Here are the top myths surrounding DVSA's enforcement work and the reality behind them…

1. DVSA's roadside checks include cars

This is not the case. DVSA's enforcement focus is on commercial vehicles as set out by law.

Why I hear you ask?

Commercial vehicles – whether they’re lorries, vans or large passenger vehicles – pose a higher risk to road users.

Often their sheer size means the impact of something going wrong is huge. It’s potentially even worse when you’re talking about a coach with 70 passengers on board.

Unlike your average car driver with a short daily commute, commercial drivers are on the road for long hours.

DVSA's role is to make sure they’re taking breaks and not driving for too long to keep us all safe.

DVSA have dealt with over 15,000 serious drivers’ hours offences since last April.

Trailers and caravans

The Government also requires DVSA to check other road users such as vehicles towing trailers and caravans as part of wider road safety initiatives.

The Police are responsible for roadside enforcement of cars. However, DVSA work with the Police in joint enforcement operations targeting all vehicles.

DVSA do cover cars with our statutory work on MOTs.

2. DVSA pull over all lorries

DVSA enforcement is focused on the bad guys – the serially non-compliant operators – to improve safety and traffic flows.

DVSA are very unlikely to stop vehicles run by the safest operators, such as those belonging to the earned recognition scheme, unless there is an obvious visual problem. This is an extra ‘carrot’ to encourage operators to keep their vehicles in good order and stick to the rules.

DVSA enforcement officers check how compliant an operator is at the touch of a button.

Operators’ compliance ratings are based on previous roadside checks along with other intelligence such annual test results of their vehicles.

3. DVSA keep the money from their roadside fines

Quite the opposite.

All of the money from DVSA fixed penalty fines goes to the Government to fund vital public services.

The only exception is the £80 fee DVSA charge to free up an immobilised vehicle once a serious defect or offence has been resolved. This fee partially covers the cost of this action.

A large part of DVSA enforcement funding comes from other DVSA income such as lorry and large passenger vehicle testing fees.

Above all, DVSA fines aim to deter commercial drivers and operators from breaking the rules and not maintaining their vehicles.

Other deterrents include prosecutions and referring more serious offences to the Traffic Commissioner.

4. Human error causes most accidents, why bother with vehicle defects?

It’s true that defective vehicles account for around 2% of all road accidents.

However, this is a testament to DVSA's enforcement role along with car MOTs and annual tests for larger vehicles.

The UK has some of the safest roads in the world, which is partly due to DVSA checks on commercial vehicles.

This myth also ignores DVSA work on distractions such as mobile phone use and drivers’ hours which help to reduce accidents caused by human error.

5. DVSA give out huge fines on any defect or offence

It’s all about the level of risk, so the fine or other punishment is in line with the severity of the defect or offence.

Just like a car MOT, DVSA give out advisory notices on minor defects which need looking at but aren’t serious safety risks and these don’t involve a fine.

What about a faulty indicator bulb?

Whilst some drivers feel it’s not a major issue, DVSA make sure the bulb is replaced before allowing the vehicle to move on to prevent an accident. DVSA will only hand out a fine if the driver was aware of the defect and carried on with the journey.

It’s estimated 85% of defects can be spotted by the commercial driver during their required walkaround check before each journey.

6. DVSA maintain Britain’s roads

In short, no.

The clue is in their title – DVSA's role covers drivers and vehicles, not the roads themselves.

Councils are responsible for maintaining local roads, whilst Highways England and Traffic Scotland cover the maintenance of motorways and major trunk roads in England and Scotland.*

However, DVSA are part of the bigger road condition ‘picture’ as we’re tackling overloaded lorries and insecure loads, which can cause significant damage to the network.

Setting the record straight

Mark Horton hopes this blog sets the record straight on these persistent myths surrounding the DVSA's work.

For more information on becoming an earned recognition operator and how it works visit the DVSA's earned recognition webpage.

*South Wales Trunk Road Agent and North & Mid Wales Trunk Road Agent cover the major roads in these areas, and all Northern Irish roads are maintained by Transport NI.

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Article source and photo credits: https://movingon.blog.gov.uk/2020/01/29/top-myths-about-dvsa-roadside-enforcement/

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