One in four lorries found to have major defects in inspections

Road safety body says almost one in 20 HGVs had dangerous defects, with nearly half of drivers checked breaching hours limits

Almost one in four heavy goods vehicles inspected by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) have major defects, while just under one in 20 have dangerous defects, new figures show.

The authority said that of the 14,620 Irish-registered heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and trailers inspected so far this year, some 5,205 (36 per cent) had some type of defect. This proportion is in line with last year’s figure when 5,246 (37 per cent) of 14,118 HGVs and trailers inspected during the year had some form of defects.

In terms of defect severities, typically 4 per cent of vehicles inspected had a dangerous defect, 24 per cent had major defects and about 40 per cent had minor defects, with the most common being related to tyres or lighting systems, the RSA said.

The most common dangerous defects include excessively worn or damaged tyres and inoperative brake lights. The most common major defects are inoperative or partially inoperative lighting systems or excessively worn braking components and malfunctioning anti-lock braking systems.


“Our enforcement is targeted at non-compliant operators — through our risk rating system — so we target those that have a history of noncompliance,” said an RSA spokesman. “This would therefore skew figures somewhat towards non-compliant operators.”

The vast majority of RSA inspections on HGVs are carried out on Irish-registered vehicles.

Almost half of all drivers checked for compliance with the strict tachograph regulations, which set limits on the number of driving hours hauliers can do, were found to be infringing the rules.

Some 1,306 (46 per cent) of the 2,823 drivers checked so far this year were in breach of the regulations on driving hour limits. This is in line with 1,294 (46 per cent) of 2,791 drivers inspected and found to be in breach for the whole of last year.

Aidan Flynn, general manager of Freight Transport Association Ireland, said the percentage of dangerous defects in trucks inspected was “very, very serious” but the fact that a quarter of all HGVs inspected have major defects was “more alarming”.

He said there had to be “more of a deterrent” against non-compliant HGV companies. He noted the low level of prosecutions, just 85 last year, against commercial vehicle operators for roadworthiness issues.

“We need to get the basics right to have a consistent approach to make the industry a fairer place and to make it harder for non-compliant operators,” he said.

Eugene Drennan, president of the Irish Road Haulage Association, said the RSA figures were “very damning” and “don’t make for nice reading”. He said the industry required a further breakdown of the figures to see what specifically caused the different defects.

There has been a significant increase in the number of inspections carried out last and this year following the disruption to services during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic. Inspections on vehicles and drivers in 2020 were between 53 per cent and 61 per cent of the RSA’s activity levels this year.

The RSA spokesman said it had increased inspections by recruiting new enforcement staff and due to increased collaboration with An Garda Síochána, which was “resulting in more checkpoints, including those taking place outside core business hours”.

The authority has 18 inspectors for HGVs, who are qualified mechanics checking vehicle roadworthiness requirements, and 20 transport officers, who enforce EU regulations on driving and rest times, tachograph regulations, operating licensing and driver competency requirements.

The Irish Times revealed last week that Irish lorries were among the top five countries for the worst records on mechanical and trailer defects, overloading and driving hour breaches of all foreign trucks checked on roads in Britain by the UK’s Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent